Former Stampeder donates kidney to save childhood friend

Natalie Paddon, The Hamilton Spectator

For Andre Arlain, the decision was a no-brainer: give a kidney to his high school best friend or watch his health continue to slip away.

“What were my options? Not get tested … and his kidneys fail because dialysis isn’t working and I end up being a pallbearer at the funeral,” Arlain said.

“That was just not an option for me.”

Arlain played seven CFL seasons for Calgary and Winnipeg between 1998 and 2004 and was a member of the Stampeders’ 1998 Grey Cup-winning team. He finished his career with 22 receptions for 271 yards but also had 100 special teams tackles in his career.

Arlain still lives in Calgary but when flew home to Hamilton for a visit two summers ago, he noticed the effects of his friend’s failing health.

Mike Ferrante, Arlain’s buddy from Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School, had been diagnosed with Fabry disease — a rare genetic disorder causing fats to accumulate in blood vessels  – 13 years ago, but the diagnosis didn’t mean much to Arlain then.

He knew the Ferrante might need dialysis because his kidneys could fail at some point, but not seeing the father of two on a day-to-day basis meant he didn’t know how bad it was.

“One day could have been one month, one year, 10 years,” Arlain said. “I didn’t really think much about it because he was fine.”

But during this visit, Ferrante looked different. His colour was off; he was swollen. The close-knit group of friends started talking about getting tested to see if they were a match.

That testing was something Marianne Ferrante, Mike’s wife, and her mom had already gone through only to find out neither woman could donate due to complications.

Around the same time, Ferrante’s health had taken a turn for the worse, and Marianne, 38, said his doctor told her she should get out there and start calling people she knew to find a donor.

She broached the subject with Mike’s pals.

“You don’t want to ask a lot,” she said, noting she put the idea out there so people knew of the situation. “I’m not going to pressure people.”

Fast forward to October. Mike was not responding well to dialysis, and he and Marianne were at a pre-op appointment to have a shunt put in his arm. On their drive home, a call came through from the transplant coordinator letting them know Arlain was coming for surgery in a matter of weeks and Mike would have a new kidney.

“We were completely shocked,” Marianne said, noting they were both in tears. “I was not expecting that call to happen like that, just out of nowhere.”

The same goes for Arlain, who received the call letting him know he was a match out of the blue just after he had finished running on the treadmill.

Marianne said they phoned Arlain right away and he told them there was no reason to thank him.

“My biggest worry was, Mike’s my age … he’s got young kids, and I know how busy that lifestyle is,” he said. “I was always worried about him because mentally, I just couldn’t believe what he would have to go through.”

As for the surgery itself, Arlain said it wasn’t too big a shock to him given he’d been under before for athletic injuries but he was not prepared for the pain he would be in the next day and how limited his movement would be. After just over a week of recovery, Arlain said he was cleared to travel and headed back to Calgary.

For Mike, the incision was “nothing” because he had gone in feeling “absolutely horrible,” Marianne said.

She wants to get the message out that even signing a donor card can make a big difference in the most desperate moments of a family’s life.

Less than six months later, and the difference in Mike is like “night and day,” Marianne noted.

“It’s really unbelievable,” she added.

If the situation had not hit so close for him, Arlain said he’s not sure if he would have been tested.

“Mike’s one of my best friends in the world,” he said. “We are kind of like family because my friend group back home is really tight.”

That made the decision to see if he was a match easy, he said.

“People are just scared, but if your brother or sister or mom or dad or one of your kids needed a kidney, would you not at least get screened to find out?”

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29 Comments on Former Stampeder donates kidney to save childhood friend

  1. Very unselfish act. No greater love than to give your life to your brother. Amen.

  2. Incredible story!

  3. Scottsask // May 17, 2018 at 9:20 am // Reply

    This is more of the non football related stories we could use more of. I see it didn’t come from the 3downnation staff, so that explains it. None the less, we’ll done Arlain.

  4. True Blue // May 17, 2018 at 9:53 am // Reply

    I enjoy coming to 3 Down Nation to read various stories and commentary so I’m not going to bust on them because I may not like what’s said in a story or two. This is a story everyone can get behind though.

  5. Just saying // May 17, 2018 at 9:58 am // Reply

    This is awesome, I’m not sure what I would do if I were in the same position.

  6. Incredibly generous.

  7. Great man.
    I see him in the Co-op by my place sometimes

    • Article isn’t about you. Now we wait for you to cut him down like you did Humboldt, Toronto, Narcisse, Durant and his child, and Jones, etc. The clock starts now…

  8. This is a very inspirational but hard story for me personally. I believe it’s now seven years, but I tried to be a donor for my special friend (Roxanne). Now I get crusty and hard around the edges as you all may be aware especially with some of the nonsense that some spew out on the Roughriders. But like everyone else who has that favourite team, I really appreciate those that are objective and provide as much without throwing out all the vitriol due to certain jealousies, snideness, whatever. But getting back to my story, when she was diagnosed with kidney failure, which is now seven years, within months, I went through three days of testing for everything that one could imagine. But I failed as I found out a week later by letter, that I have Type 2 Diabetes, plus through the comprehensive testing that was provided to potential donors that I also have Tuberculosis (though contained through immunization) that I inherited from my grandfather. I would encourage all readers to get tested since I would not have known of either disease that I am inflicted with. And if it is one’s goal, perhaps each of us can save a life of someone else, whether significant or not, while improving our lives with a moment of satisfaction. Very nice story.

    • Incredible gesture on Arlains part, and kudos to you as well 89. Life is too short these days, to not help those in need. Stories like this, and hearing of your selfless act for a friend, restores a little of my faith in humanity.

      Cheers

  9. solara2000 // May 17, 2018 at 10:46 am // Reply

    The things that unite us in our humanness, outweigh those things that may divide us.
    Great story!. And a great person as are all those good people who put others before self.

  10. Green&Gold // May 17, 2018 at 10:48 am // Reply

    I gave 1 to my Dad 18 years ago. Good on him. Great person.

  11. I’m just waiting for Red to tell us he gave both his kidney’s to his dad.

    • I think Red has kidneys planned in his will that likely will be donated to a horse in Calgary.

      • Could you imagine the mass confusion it would cause among those in the medical research field, if he donated his brain for research………..

        • Lithium would be readily available again

        • That’s a very good question, Yup. Most experts would not only be confounded by such a wonderful gesture, but likely confused with a brain such as Red’s that could very likely be half horse/half human. Scary to fathom I’m afraid. Better put that one to rest, Yup. Only Red can truly answer the phenomena with that mention, and perhaps it’s something we better not delve in with Red for sanity sakes.

  12. ***crap…wrong thread**

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