Former Gopher celebrates gift of life after donating kidney to former teammate

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A former Gopher football player is teaming up with local partners to raise awareness for living organ donations and he’s using his 50th birthday to make it happen.

Micheal “Doobie” Kurus held a birthday party at Saturday’s Gopher football game tailgate. His birthday wish is to raise awareness about living organ donations.

“I’m approaching 50 on Monday. I feel pretty good about life,” Kurus said.

Kurus is celebrating the big 50 on the football field.

He’s teaming up with a local kidney foundation, Gopher Sports and Marketing and M Health Fairview to call attention to the need for donors.

“To just raise awareness for the need and help dispel those myths that your life is going to be taking a turn for the worse or that it’s a really big inconvenience,” he said.

He speaks from experience.

Six years ago, he donated his kidney to his former gopher teammate and friend, Ed Hawthrone, and it saved his life.

“I was just doing my part. I’m glad I was able to do it. He’s doing well,” Kurus said.

Now, he’s encouraging others to do the same.

According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, there’s more than 100,000 people in the United States on the transplant list waiting for the gift of life. 

“Huntington Bank Stadium holds about 50,000 people so you would have to fill two Huntington Bank Stadiums and that would still be less than the amount of people on the transplant list right now,” Annie Doyle, M Heath Fairview living donor coordinator, said.

M Health Fairview has done nearly 10,000 kidney transplants. Doyle said almost more than half are from living donors.

Health officials explained organs from living donors work better, faster and they last longer.

“What makes their story so special is that they’re part of that living donor transplant group which is just a really selfless, incredible gift,” Doyle said.

Kurus explained that’s just what teammates do — they help each other up, if one gets knocked down.

“There’s no strings attached. He owes me nothing,” Kurus said. “I think a lot of donors feel the same way. We get more out of it in a lot of ways because we’re just having a better appreciation for life.”

If you’re interested in being a living organ donor, visit this website for more information. Health officials said they’ll sit down with patients to do an evaluation to determine eligibility.