TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It's a gift unlike any other. An East Texas man was given a second chance at life thanks to an act of friendship.
Mike Howell was in desperate need of a kidney after being diagnosed with a hereditary disease. His friend, Ray Reinert gave him one of his own. Howell and Reinert have been friends for 25 years. Reinert is home in Kilgore while Howell remains in Dallas, recovering from the transplant.
When asked what it meant to receive a kidney from Reinert, Howell responded, "I just didn't know what to say. It was just so amazing to me that anyone would do that...He was a Godsend to me, and I'm indebted to him from now on."
The transplant is a miracle for Howell who has been on a donor list for two years. He has suffered from a genetic kidney disease. "His mother had passed away with a kidney disease. His brother had a kidney transplant and is doing fine. His sister got a kidney from her dad," said Reinert.
Reinert says Howell's family members weren't a match, so he decided he wanted to be Howell's donor. "I just told him he could have mine. There was never a doubt... [The doctors] even said we were close enough we could have been relatives. The match was that good," said Reinert.
Before surgery, Reinert tweaked his lifestyle. He had to give up his daily dose of eight Diet Pepsis and an occasional cigar.
Reinert says the procedure went better than planned and his kidney immediately worked for Howell. "It started working on the table - while he was on the operating table."
Both men are looking forward to adventures ahead. Reinert spoke to Howell on the phone and asked, "When did the doctor say you get to go swimming?" Howell responded, "He said I'd have to wait until this scar healed up good."
Reinert says he plans on returning to work in the next two weeks. Howell must spend six weeks in Dallas before he fully recovers.