Texas Guardsman donates kidney to stranger

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: August 12, 2016

Texas Army National Guard Spc. Brittany Reppond, with the 197th Special Troops Support Company, based out of Camp Bullis, San Antonio, Texas, right, donates kidney to Arthur Corenblith, left, February 18, 2016, at the Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio. While working for a sales company at a local gas station, the Soldier saw a sign 'my brother needs a kidney' on a car and decided to donate. (Courtesy Photo)
Texas Army National Guard Spc. Brittany Reppond, with the 197th Special Troops Support Company, based out of Camp Bullis, San Antonio, Texas, right, donates kidney to Arthur Corenblith, left, February 18, 2016, at the Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio. While working for a sales company at a local gas station, the Soldier saw a sign 'my brother needs a kidney' on a car and decided to donate. (Courtesy Photo)

SAN ANTONIO – Every day holds the possibility for a miracle, but Arthur Corenblith, 56, husband and father of two, was quickly losing hope and questioned how many days he had left to live.

Corenblith, an elementary school teacher was suffering from a genetic illness and needed a kidney transplant fast. He had been on the waiting list for what seemed like a lifetime.

 At 93 percent kidney failure, Corenblith was put on dialysis.

“At that time I had been on the list for four years and I was getting nowhere. I had gotten pneumonia, I had been in the hospital for over a month; I would connect to the dialysis machine every night for a year and a half, for nine hours and I was still teaching school as well; I would literally have to hold on to my podium while teaching.”

One of the hardest parts for Corenblith was missing out on his youngest son’s soccer season due to being on the dialysis machine every day.

“I really didn’t have a night anymore. My 13-year-old had to be driven to and from soccer practice by his coach,” he said.

 Friends and family tried donating to Corenblith but were disqualified due to medical history.

 His sister went as far as writing a sign on her car. “She put on her car, with shoe polish, my brother needs a kidney,” he said.

 Under a new policy made by the United Network for Organ Sharing in 2012, the fittest organs would be given to those likely to live the longest with the donated organ. The top 20 percent of kidneys would be offered to the top 20 percent of patients and the other 80 percent would work the same way.

“Literally the month I was supposed to get a kidney the national standards changed,” said Corenblith. “I had no idea what I was going to do.”

That’s when he decided to register in San Antonio to broaden his chances of finding a donor.

“I went to the Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio to register because I wasn’t getting anywhere in Houston,” said Corenblith.

“My brother-in-law had forgotten his luggage and had to return home to get it. On the way back, Brittany was at a gas station he stopped at.”

Unbeknownst to him, he had found his miracle.

 Texas Army National Guard Spc. Brittany Reppond, 21, a carpentry and masonry specialist for the 197th Special Troop Support Battalion, based out of Camp Bullis near San Antonio, was working as a sales person outside the local gas station.

“I saw on the back of a car ‘my brother needs a kidney’, said Reppond. “I’ve seen stuff like that in the past, but this time it was like God was calling me to do it.”

Reppond called the number on the vehicle and got all the information she needed from Corenblith’s sister.

“I prayed about it, I’d say for about a week. I told myself if I’m a match it’s God’s will, and I was a perfect six out of six,” she said.

 After getting approval from her chain of command, she began the process.

“I had to do a 24-hour urine sample and give a lot of blood, go on liquid diets, and get X-rays, cat scans and psychiatric testing,” said Reppond.

 Doctors from the San Antonio hospital asked that Corenblith meet Reppond for the first time to make sure she still wanted to follow through with the procedure.

“I was shaking on my way to meet her -- what do you say to someone who is going to do this for you especially after you have been waiting for so long?” said Corenblith. “The hospital told me afterward, this young woman is focused, she sets her sights and she goes for it, and that’s a testament to the National Guard as well.”

 “When I found out he had two kids I said, I have to do this, I can’t let them not have their dad because I don’t have my dad anymore,” said Reppond, who lost her dad in 2011.

 Even though Corenblith said he never felt good enough to receive someone’s kidney, Reppond gave him the reassurance he needed.

“I was really nervous,” said Corenblith. “Then I saw Brittany the day of the surgery, she was so calm and confident you could tell she’s a Soldier, those are all the things I’m not. She was just reflecting back to me all the things I needed, comfort, encouragement and happiness that she’s doing this for me.”

Months after the procedure, the two Texans still stay in contact with each other. Corenblith works hard to stay healthy through exercise.

“I got her a little stuffed monkey and I got a matching one,” said Corenblith. “I even went and bought a treadmill and it’s on my treadmill. I say to myself- I must be strong - this is Brittany’s kidney.”

 “I don’t regret it at all, I would do it again,” said Reppond.

 She has since moved to East Texas, is a volunteer in the Zavalla Fire Department, and is getting ready for EMT school.

“I want to be a paramedic,” said Reppond. “I like helping people I’ve been like that my whole life and the medical field, to me, is the best way to do it. This was a stepping stone for that.”

 “God made my crooked road straight,” said Corenblith. “Several times things looked very bleak for me, bad pneumonia, anemia, medications, National Kidney Allocation change and 1.5 years on dialysis - but God straightened it out in the end.”

Corenblith is now able to attend his son’s soccer practices and just returned from a weekend at Fiesta Texas, in San Antonio with his two sons, Mitchell, 23, and Cooper, 13.

“Even to this day, this very moment, I struggle hugely with how to thank her enough and what to say. She saved my life. It’s the most miraculous story in the world.” Corenblith said.

 To find out how you can become a donor log on to: http://www.organdonor.gov/becomingdonor/index.html