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Anderson veteran saves another veteran's life with a kidney donation

Anderson Independent-Mail logo Anderson Independent-Mail 11/25/2019 Kathy Pierre, Anderson Independent Mail
a man and a woman sitting on a table: Billy Konrad, left, is pictured with Steve Hartington and Steve's companion dog, Barrett. Hartington donated his kidney to Konrad this year. © Kathy Pierre Billy Konrad, left, is pictured with Steve Hartington and Steve's companion dog, Barrett. Hartington donated his kidney to Konrad this year.

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.

a man smiling for the camera: Vietnam Veteran Billy Konrad, left, Bonnie Konrad in their front yard looking at the sunset sky over the West side of Anderson in December. Konrad served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1966 to 1968 and says he deals with the hardships of health after his time serving. © Ken Ruinard / staff Vietnam Veteran Billy Konrad, left, Bonnie Konrad in their front yard looking at the sunset sky over the West side of Anderson in December. Konrad served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1966 to 1968 and says he deals with the hardships of health after his time serving.

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.

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Hartington believes 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.

Previous reporting: Anderson resident and Vietnam vet searches for a kidney donor

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.

In addition to giving Billy Konrad a kidney, Steve Hartington also gave Konrad an engraved shadow box with a folded flag that flew near the hospital where they both had surgery inside. © Kathy Pierre In addition to giving Billy Konrad a kidney, Steve Hartington also gave Konrad an engraved shadow box with a folded flag that flew near the hospital where they both had surgery inside.

Because of Konrad's age, he and Bonnie believe 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."

Kathy Pierre covers all things Anderson from its growth to its people. You can email her at kathy.pierre@independentmail.com or reach out on Twitter @kpierrejourno.

This article originally appeared on Anderson Independent Mail: Anderson veteran saves another veteran's life with a kidney donation

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