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BZ to OCdt Chung for stepping up - I see good things in his future. We need more news stories like this.
Kris Chung walked through the front door of Toronto General Hospital at 7:00 a.m., as instructed. Over the next hour, while medical staff prepped him for surgery, every doctor who approached his bedside asked the same question: Are you absolutely sure about this? It is not too late to change your mind.
“I was very calm,” Kris recalls, more than a year removed from that April morning in 2015. “Honestly, I felt more nervous about walking into an exam than being wheeled into the operating room.”
A soldier-in-training, the 19-year-old assured the docs, again and again, he was good to go. By 8:00 a.m., the anaesthetic kicked in.
Across the street at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, four-year-old Binh Wagner was waiting for what Kris had come to give: a piece of his healthy liver. By then, Binh and her twin sister, Phuoc, had triggered countless headlines around the world, their story almost too heartbreaking to believe: both girls, adopted from a Vietnamese orphanage, needed life-saving liver transplants—but their dad, a perfect match, could donate to only one. (A portion of his liver had already gone to Phuoc, deemed the sicker of the two.)
Moved by the girls’ rarest of plights, more than 600 strangers volunteered to be the second donor, knowing full well they were signing up for major surgery, weeks of recovery, and complete anonymity. Kris was the chosen one, his identity known only to hospital staff and a few trusted others. In a medical drama that was so widely publicized, he was the unknown hero.
“I’d like to thank the donor,” said a tearful Michael Wagner, the girls’ Kingston, Ont., dad, at a post-surgery press conference. “They put their life on the line for someone they’ve never met, and changed our lives forever.” Beside him, his wife was crying, too. “I would like to say to the anonymous donor that you were in my thoughts as much as my daughter was in my thoughts,” Johanne Wagner said. “Thank you for your unselfishness.”
Today, 16 months later, the Wagners know exactly where to direct their eternal gratitude. Binh’s anonymous donor, it turned out, lived barely five minutes down the road, in the dorm at Kingston’s Royal Military College (RMC). They connected on Facebook at first, then eventually at a downtown coffee shop. “I just gave him a big hug when I first saw him,” Johanne says. “I don’t even think I said: ‘Thank you.’ It was more: ‘Wow, it’s you.’ ”
As epilogues go, this one is tough to beat: a young man who risked his life to help a dying stranger meets the beautiful little girl he saved. But this postscript doesn’t end here.
Over the past few months, Kris has become so much more than the anonymous organ donor; he is now the closest thing to a member of the family. He drops by the Wagners’ house nearly every day—always welcome for supper—and his bond with Binh, now five, is palpable. Her face lights up when he walks through the door. “My Kris,” she calls him. Anxious to change even more lives than he already has, Kris has also joined forces with Johanne to launch a not-for-profit organization, Twins for Hope, aimed at helping impoverished children in Vietnam access shelter, education and health care....