Montreal man who donated kidney to his friend hopes to inspire others to become organ donors

In June 2013, Stephen Evans was surprised to learn his kidneys were failing and that he had been diagnosed with end-stage renal failure. 

What surprised him even more, was his friend's offer to provide the life-saving kidney transplant Evans so desperately needed.

"When I first said 'yes,' it was knee-jerk. It was 'how can I help a friend,'" recalled the donor, Andy Bowers, on CBC Montreal's Homerun.

Evans told Homerun that his diagnosis seemingly came out of nowhere.

"I went from being under the weather to dialysis overnight," he said.

"They call it the silent killer."

He'd been having cramps in his legs and his wife had pushed him to go see a doctor.

By the next day he was hooked up to a dialysis machine, getting his blood filtered — renal failure meant his kidneys couldn't do it without external help.

Kidneys in high demand

Kidneys are one of the few organs that can be donated while a person is still alive without them suffering health consequences of their own.

While waiting for a kidney, among an estimated 1,000 other Quebecers, Evans confided in his friend about his situation.

Bowers immediately wanted to help.

After the successful transplant March 13, 2014, Bowers recovered quickly. Within nine days he went for a six-kilometre run and three weeks later he was back at work.

He said that there were so few complications during and after the surgery that he saw no reason why other people shouldn't follow his lead and donate a kidney of their own.

The two have been sharing their story and started a campaign called Sign of a Hero to raise awareness and encourage people to register on the organ donor list.

People can register to be on the list when they sign their driver's license or sign up for the Quebec registry.