LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Luis Hernandez awoke from surgery with one less kidney, but, knowing he helped save a man’s life, it left him with a full heart.
His organ helped save Gaston Benjamin’s life — a man Hernandez had never met.
When these two men met last week they were strangers. They now call themselves brothers.
“The guy is an angel,” Benjamin said. “I believe there are angels on earth and he’s one of them.”
Besides being a blood match the two men are both prison guards in Southern California.
They may have compatible blood types but they’re divided when it comes to football. Hernandez is a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and Benjamin is devoted to the San Francisco 49ers.
“I’ve always made jokes about Niner fans. I guess now I’m part Niner fan,” Hernandez said. “But I told him you can’t talk all your want, but a cowboy’s keeping you alive.”
Last fall, Hernandez, along with 40,000 other Department of Corrections employees received an e-mail asking for willing donors. He was one of 18 to answer. And the one man who ended up at the hospital.
UCLA Medical Center Surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Veale successfully transplanted the kidney on Tuesday.
Veale says before the donation was made, Benjamin was on a waiting list with 90,000 other people across the country.
Hernandez says he made one of the biggest decisions of his life, donating his kidney to a man he didn’t know, because he says he didn’t want a fellow father to leave his kids without a dad.
There were some relatives that questioned Hernandez’s choice, asking, “What if you get sick?” or “What if someone in your family gets sick?”
Hernandez says he couldn’t live his life on “what-if’s.”
“I had to try. If something happens down the line then that’s fate or that’s God’s will.”
Recovery has begun, and Benjamin is gaining strength quickly now with his new kidney functioning correctly. Hernandez, too, feels better every day, and both say their bond is beyond description.