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Avon man donates life-saving kidney to best friend in Charlotte

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – An Avon man donated one of his kidneys to potentially save the life of his best friend in Charlotte on Feb. 13.

On average, a patient will wait about five years for a new kidney, according to Atrium Health. For others, the transplant will never happen at all. But for Matt Barefield, 45, the wait is over.

Matt was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, or Berger’s disease, in 2013. It’s a kidney disease that can ultimately lead to kidney failure. Berger’s disease causes Matt’s body to continue fighting an infection long after the infection is gone, with immunoglobulin A (IgA) becoming lodged in the kidneys, eventually clogging the kidneys and compromising their ability to function properly.

At Matt’s diagnosis, his kidneys were functioning at about 60 percent. Now, five years later, they were down to just five percent. He’s been on dialysis since February 2018.

Matt’s friend Barry Teague volunteered to be his living donor – without hesitation. The two met in 2004. For several years they worked together, traveling extensively and forging a deep friendship. Barry eventually moved to Indiana, while Matt remained in North Carolina. But the friendship endured.

“I said, without even thinking about it, I want to donate a kidney. He needs a kidney, and I can do it. I’m going to be the person to give him a kidney,” said Barry.

Barry was one of eight to 10 people who stepped up for Matt, submitting to testing to find out whether they could help. Several were denied for various health reasons and others simply were not a match. But after several rounds of screening and tests, Barry was confirmed as a match.

“There are really no words for it. You can’t describe what it’s like to have someone basically put their life at risk for your life. It’s just very hard to comprehend,” said Matt.

Barry disagrees.

“It doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything out of the norm. I think that if there were more people out there that were willing to do this, then the outcome would be a lot different. Everyone has the ability to change someone’s life. That’s what we’re here for. You can do good your whole life, and it never may be good enough. But if you do good when you’re able to make a difference in someone’s life, that’s the meaning.”

In the United States, almost 115,000 people are on transplant lists waiting for organs. About 95,000 of these need kidneys. If you’d like to learn more about organ donation, click here.

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