By KATHY PIERRE
Anderson Independent Mail
ANDERSON - Not long after learning his fellow veteran's kidneys were failing, Steve Hartington began the process of learning whether or not he could donate one of his own.
Billy Konrad, a 71-year-old Vietnam veteran, told the Independent Mail in December 2018 that his kidneys were only operating at 11%. At the time, other members of Vets Helping Vets Anderson tried to donate to Konrad, but couldn't for various reasons.
Hartington, 62, said he began the process shortly after reading about Konrad in the Independent Mail, but he didn't tell Konrad or his wife, Bonnie, because he didn't want them to get their hopes up and ultimately be let down if it didn't work.
Hartington thinks it was part of his destiny.
"Thirty years ago, I almost ended my life because I didn't want to be here," Hartington said, with tears in his eyes. "God kept me around and for the past 30 years, I wondered what that reason was.
"And then Billy came along. ... God spoke to me and said, 'Hey, get off your butt and go to Duke.'"
The testing and matching process took nearly a year, and the surgery happened Oct. 3 at Duke University Hospital.
Hartington and Konrad have known each other for a few years and would greet each other at meetings, but they were never close friends, which made Hartington's choice an even bigger surprise to the Konrads.
Now, Konrad calls Hartington his "brother from another mother."
Hartington, an Army, National Guard and Navy veteran, jokes that giving Konrad, a Marine veteran, his kidney means he's now been in four different branches of the military.
Because of Konrad's age, he and Bonnie thought it would've been unlikely to find a match if it weren't for Hartington. They were looking into hospice options.
"It's been a long time coming," Konrad said about being healthy again. "Wow. A clean bill of health."
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