Former firefighter gives kidney to save neighbor


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CLOSE and The Document will probably be highlighting folks in North Jersey who’ve gone “Above and Past” to alter and save lives.

Editor’s word: This text is a part of a series titled “Above and Beyond” that includes North Jersey’s hometown heroes who’ve gone above and past to avoid wasting lives.

Longtime Little Falls resident Nick Sauter remembered watching Robert Connizzo develop up two homes down from his residence, however by no means imagined that the younger boy down the road would ultimately save his life. 

The Sauters and Connizzos have been two households on the tight-knit portion of Walnut Avenue, the place everybody knew one another and would continuously look to assist each other, even it was simply snow blowing one another’s sidewalks after a snowstorm.

Nonetheless, it would not be till years later in 2018 when Connizzo would act as a lifeline to Sauter by donating a kidney.

“There was by no means a hesitation,” stated Connizzo. “I stated, ‘Let’s go for it.'”

Looking for a donor

Sauter, 65, was a Rutgers soccer offensive lineman within the late 1970s and through an undefeated season in 1976. He went on to carry a number of titles at his alma mater, Passaic Valley Excessive Faculty, the place he was a instructor, vice principal, soccer and monitor coach and ultimately athletic director up till he retired in 2011. 

Nonetheless, as time handed, Sauter wanted anti-inflammatory medicine for his knee,  which he believes is a results of his time as a soccer participant, which started to negatively have an effect on his kidneys.

The issues together with his kidneys escalated to the purpose the place they might not operate correctly, and he was placed on a dialysis machine in 2017 for 2 years. 

“Dialysis retains you alive, but it surely’s not a life,” Sauter stated. 

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Sauter and his household put messages throughout social media in search of kidney donors together with his blood kind and anxiously awaited excellent news. Sauter acquired 60 potential donors however viable choices dwindled and he started to ponder the grim actuality that he could not obtain the kidney he desperately wanted. 

“It is such as you lastly notice how you’ll die,” Sauter stated. 

Sauter searched far and broad for donors throughout the nation however at some point he bought a name about another likelihood at a donor, and it was from two doorways down. 

“I knew he had gotten sick however I did not know the severity of it,” Connizzo, 35, stated. 

Connizzo heard that Sauter wanted A optimistic, A unfavourable, O unfavourable or O optimistic blood varieties in a donor and realized he was a match. 

He was no stranger to serving to folks — Connizzo joined the Little Falls Fireplace Division as a volunteer when he was a young person and likewise volunteered as an EMT. 

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“I used to be all the time taught by my mother and pop to stay for one thing greater than your self,” he stated. 

It was this philosophy that propelled Connizzo to leap into motion. He described himself as “amped up” when the method began, but it surely took months of testing for medical doctors to make sure that he didn’t have any underlying situations. 

Connizzo bought the all-clear and the surgical procedure was set for February 2019. The surgical procedure went effectively for each Sauter and Connizzo though Sauter was sedated for barely longer so medical doctors might guarantee that the kidney would not be rejected by his physique. Connizzo could not wait to see how Sauter was recovering. 

“Once I was in a position to stand up and stroll across the nurses requested me if I used to be misplaced,” Connizzo stated. “I advised them I used to be in search of my left kidney.” 

A 12 months later

The anniversary of the surgical procedure handed in February and Sauter is in good well being, as is Connizzo. Regardless of how a lot time passes, nonetheless, Sauter will always remember what Connizzo did for him.

“It is like [I] type of have a brand new household now,” Sauter stated. 

The 2 have since run a 5K collectively in assist of the NJ Sharing Community, a nonprofit group that helps folks in want of life-saving organs or tissue discover donors or get well from surgical procedure, and Sauter speaks at colleges within the space to speak concerning the significance of organ donating. 

Connizzo stated the journey of donating his kidney has impressed him to turn out to be more healthy and train extra whereas Sauter looks like he was given an extension on his life at a time the place he felt it was in jeopardy. 

“I used to be so excited,” Sauter stated, “to have the ability to see my grandkids develop up.”

Anthony Zurita is a breaking information reporter for For limitless entry to all the foremost information taking place in North Jersey, subscribe here. To get breaking information on to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.

Electronic mail: Twitter: @AnthonyRZurita

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