A kind act between a pair of old friends has earned them both a trip to the 2023 Super Bowl in Arizona.
Billy Welsh and John Gladwell first met in the Marines Corps. over 20 years ago, according to CBS News.
Though they hadn’t seen each other in person for years, the two kept in touch over Facebook, and that’s where Gladwell saw Welsh’s post asking his loved ones for a kidney back in 2019.
“I put a Facebook post out on Facebook saying, ‘Does anyone have a spare kidney laying around? Mine’s junk and I need a new one,’ ” Welsh recalled to CBS News.
At the time, Welsh had been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, which causes one’s kidneys to enlarge and lose function over time, according to Mayo Clinic.
Gladwell found out he was a match for Welsh after getting tested, then contacted his old friend with the news. The two underwent a 10-hour operation at a Philadelphia hospital in October 2020.
“I wasn’t going to let Billy’s son go through any of his life without his dad,” Gladwell told the outlet.
Because Gladwell is a Kansas City Chiefs fan, and Welsh a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, the two exchanged jerseys to commemorate the experience (jerseys swaps are typically a sign of admiration between two NFL players).
After news of their story started to spread, the presidents of the Eagles and Chiefs worked together to give both Welsh and Gladwell tickets to watch their teams at the Super Bowl on Feb. 12.
“The opportunity to bring these two guys together, their two teams playing on the biggest stage in sports, it’s very, very humbling and gratifying,” Eagles president Don Smolenski told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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And it’s a moment that wouldn’t have happened if Gladwell hadn’t taken the initiative to test himself after Welsh’s Facebook post.
“It meant the world to me,” Welsh told Today of Gladwell’s donation. “… John Gladwell is my hero.”
But if the Chiefs win the Super, Welsh jokingly added to USA Today, “I will return this kidney.”