THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

A mayor goes to bat for resident

She quietly donates kidney

By Stephanie Reitz
Associated Press / April 22, 2010

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HARTFORD — Politicians long ago discovered the uses of Facebook. Mayor April Capone Almon of East Haven found something else there: a constituent who needed her kidney.

Capone Almon, 35, had more than 1,600 “friends’’ on Facebook last year when she saw one of them, Carlos Sanchez, post a status update saying that his friends and relatives had all been tested and could not donate a kidney.

She knew him casually through activities and friends, but they were not so close that she had heard he was ill.

Sanchez, a 44-year-old father whose kidneys were failing because of diabetes, sent the request on Facebook only hesitantly and at his doctor’s suggestion.

He worried that people might pity him, and he certainly had not pinned his hopes on finding a donor that way.

He did not have long to wait. Capone Almon was the first person to respond.

“I sent him a private message and just said: ‘Hey, I’ll try. I’ll get tested,’ ’’ Capone Almon said yesterday. “I really felt from the very beginning that I was going to be a match and a donor. I don’t know why, but I just knew it.’’

Sanchez had no such certainty.

“I thought she was joking,’’ said Sanchez, an office administrator. “The mayor of East Haven would offer me her kidney? I didn’t want to get my hopes high. But at a point she made me feel so comfortable that I started feeling maybe this was meant to be.’’

Capone Almon, a Democrat, was running for second term as mayor but kept the details of her medical plans a secret. She won the election as they awaited word on the kidney donation.

The operation was set only after Capone Almon passed a battery of tests and was given a long explanation of the process.

Their tenuous connection became a lasting bond April 8, when doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital removed Capone Almon’s left kidney and transplanted it into Sanchez.

They were released from the hospital in less than a week and are expected to make a full recovery. His insurance paid for both their surgeries, and the mayor is back on the job.

She said she fields questions almost daily from people asking if she is worried that her one remaining kidney might someday fail.

But Capone Almon said she is confident enough in modern medicine and her own health, especially after the numerous tests, that she barely gives it a thought.

“Anybody can try to do this, and if it’s meant to be, you’ll be a match and a donor, and you can really help someone,’’ she said

Michael Lawlor, the area’s state representative to the General Assembly and a longtime friend of Capone Almon’s, said she kept the details of her plans private for a long time, even as he and others quizzed her to ensure that she recognized the serious nature of the donation.

“Almost everybody says the same thing: I don’t know if I would do that if it wasn’t a relative,’’ Lawlor said. “. . . But she said, ‘No problem.’ When she found out she was a match, she was genuinely happy and truly excited to do it.’’

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