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Cleveland firefighter donates kidney to help late co-worker's daughter

When 12-year-old Lena Sunyak needed a kidney, Jake Konys stepped up.

CLEVELAND — In firefighting, there's an unspoken understanding that you always have someone's back, and you always keep your word.

It's something that Cleveland firefighter Jake Konys knows very well. His late colleague, Lieutenant Dan Sunyak, shared with him years ago, that his three children have the same genetic kidney disease, ARPKD.

"It weighed on him, you know? As it would weigh on me. I got three little girls and I can't imagine what that would be like. So, I told him, and, you know, a lot of our other buddies told him, 'Don't let it get at ya. You know? We're here and we'll help you,'" Konys shared. "If one of us can't donate, then we'll find somebody that can."

A few days ago, Jake donated his kidney at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, honoring the bond he shares with Dan, and fulfilling the promise he made to him before he passed. It came at the perfect time since Dan's 12-year-old daughter, Lena, needs a kidney now.

"I said I'd do it, and Lena's great. She's a tough little girl," Jake said.

Thought Jake isn't an exact match for Lena, she's guaranteed a kidney through a program called the Paired Kidney Exchange.

"If she has somebody that donates on her behalf, then they'll find somebody else that'll donate, kind of like a three-way trade," Jake said.

His gesture has left Dan's family speechless.

"I wish I had adequate words to describe how much this means to our family," Megan O'Shea, Lena's mom said.

And for Lena?

"I cried because I was really happy. No matter what you give or how much you thank him, it's like not enough. Like that's a big thing," she told us.

Thought the moment is bittersweet, everyone involved knows in the end, it's all about goodness.

"One thing can lead to many good things, and this is just one small example of one good person doing a good thing that turned into a much larger great thing," Megan said.

To learn more about the Paired Kidney Exchange, click here.

Editor's note: The following video is from a previous, unrelated report.



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