WESTFIELD - The See family of Westfield has much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving; their son has given the ultimate gift to his younger brother - the gift of life. Twenty-four-year-old Ryan See donated a kidney to his younger brother, Zachary, exactly one month ago.
Zachary, 20, has had kidney problems since he was a young child due to an infection. He received his first transplant 12 years ago and the second transplant only a year later.
"One day, my mom took us down to the gorge in Westfield. He must have swallowed something, or something got in his mouth and he got E. coli. They thought it was the flu and it had all the signs of the flu. Before they could diagnose (Zachary), he had already lost both his kidneys," Ryan said.
Ryan See recently gave a kidney to his younger brother. Pictured with Ryan is his 2-year-old son, Tyler.
Both of the prior transplants were from outside donors and the second was slowly being rejected by Zachary's body. Ryan said if he didn't give his kidney, his brother could have lost his life. Since the two are siblings, it was "an exact match, like twins," Ryan said.
The surgery took place on Oct. 28 and took 5 1/2 hours for Ryan, and Zachary was in surgery for about an hour longer. The transplant was Ryan's first surgery and compared it to being hit by a car and even said he had second thoughts about the entire process.
"It was very scary. I almost backed out right at the last minute but my wife said I couldn't. I was so scared. It had to be done or (Zachary) was going to pass away. He was going to have to go on dialysis and that takes a toll on your body,
"I'm active and healthy. You're completely fine before you go to surgery then right after you get out it's like getting hit by a car. You just feel like crap. My brother felt great after surgery. A day later he said 'I feel like a million bucks,'" Ryan continued.
While both sons were in surgery, their parents and Ryan's wife were in the waiting room. The boys' father, David, said the day of the surgery was a mix of emotions. He said it was "very nerve-racking" to have both sons in surgery but also felt "unbelievably blessed" Ryan was giving a part of himself to his brother.
"It's the most awesome, worrisome day. (Ryan) did a wonderful thing and I know his brother loves him and appreciates him. The kidney is working great," David said.
David said Zachary even called his brother from the Intensive Care Unit following surgery to make sure he was doing well. Ryan said as soon as he could get up and walk, he wanted to check in on his younger brother, since both were in hospital rooms adjacent to each other. Since the two are brothers, doctors said there is a great chance the kidney will not be rejected. According to doctors, Ryan said, the transplant is more likely to last a lot longer since it's an exact match.
"It's just like having his own kidney," Ryan said.
Since the surgery, David said the recovery time for Zachary has been much shorter than in the past. He also said the two brothers are much closer now than before the surgery. Ryan said his brother will call and text him more often just to check up and want to spend time together.
"It brought us a lot closer together. I'm really happy about that," Ryan said.
When the See family gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, they will be celebrating both the holiday and both their sons. David said the entire family is grateful for Ryan and his decision.
"It's beyond words when you have two of your kids having surgery and one is doing it to keep the other alive. It's utterly amazing," said David. "We have something extra to be thankful for. (Ryan) is a hero."
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