Florida Native Donates Kidney for Long, Lost Friend

When most long lost friends and family members reunite, they give gifts of memories and photographs that connect their hearts together. But for Hillary Glanzer, her reunion with her long lost friend led her to offer one of the greatest gifts anyone could give—her kidney.

Hillary Glanzer, 28-year-old Newberry native, is a spontaneous, compassionate person, ready and willing to give when called upon. Her family knows her as a spunky, adventurous soul who makes important decisions on a whim.

Glanzer told her family about her decision to give her kidney to her long lost friend. Though her mother was not surprised at Glanzer’s spontaneous decision, she was scared at the prospect.

“She doesn’t live timidly,” said her mother, Joy Glanzer, “but we had to catch our breath.”

Hillary Glanzer first met Hannah Craig through Craig’s cousin, Sara Decubellis. After forming a close bond, they moved around and lost touch.

Glanzer discovered Craig needed a kidney on Facebook after reading Decubellis’ mother pleading for people to get blood tests to see if they would be a kidney match for Craig.

Craig suffered from the autoimmune disease lupus since she was six weeks old. At 21 years old, her body was weakening even though her mother, Doreen Bissonnette, had given one of her kidneys nineteen years ago.

Bissonnette was unsure that her daughter would get a kidney since she had a rare B-positive blood type. Craig started dialysis and was given one year before her kidneys would give up on her. And the Tampa General Hospital, known for kidney transplant operations, told the family Craig would need to wait at least three years for a kidney.

The prospects were grim—until Glanzer stepped up.

“I immediately thought I could at least get tested,” Glanzer said.

The blood work came back and Glanzer was a perfect kidney match for her long lost friend.

Glanzer’s mother came to visit her at her residence to talk to her about this important decision.

“Being told I’m the best match, that’s saying something,” she said.

When Craig’s mother, Bissonnette, was contacted about the kidney transplant for her daughter, emotions were high and tears were shed.

“I don’t remember much, but there were a lot of tears,” Bissonnette said.

Bissonnette had a meeting with Glanzer to inform her of the risks associated with the surgery. She wanted to let her know what to expect so she was prepared.

“If she could help, she wanted to do it,” Bissonnette said. “It’s a great thing to be able to give somebody a third chance.”

“You think of giving an organ, and it’s crazy, but if you do a little research, it opened my eyes to how much in need people are,” Glanzer said. “People don’t realize that.”

Joy Glanzer named the kidney Irene, after the Nat King Cole song “Goodnight Irene” to lighten the mood and make the atmosphere more joyous. The lighthearted nature of the song and naming the kidney helped Glanzer and Craig catch up after so many years apart.

“Both families spoke so often about the kidney, naming it made the process more personal and “easier to talk about,” Joy Glanzer said.

The surgery was successful and the families involved became closely bonded as a result.

“We talk almost every day now,” Glanzer said. “We’re a part of each other’s families.”

They consider themselves family, even though they are not blood related. A donated kidney symbolizes their compassion and precious union.

“We have a bond most blood families don’t,” Bissonnette said. “And we’ll be in each other’s lives forever.”