New Castle News

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May 14, 2012

Walk-off donor: When Steve Suchonic needed a kidney, a teammate and friend stepped to the plate

NEW CASTLE — Joe DeCristoforo Jr. watched his friend and teammate round the bases.

There were the usual high fives for Steve Suchonic after he smacked a homer during the softball game — and one not-so-common exhortation.

As Suchonic took off, he heard DeCristoforo call, “Hey, take care of my kidney when you run to first base.”

DeCristoforo and Suchonic have known each other since kindergarten at the former Arthur McGill School. They both grew up on the North Hill and played football for New Castle High School, graduating in 1989. Later, they were rivals, as DeCristoforo was on Westminster College’s football team and Suchonic played for Geneva College.

Now, though, they’re back on the same team in another sense. And DeCristoforo has given a whole new meaning to going to bat for a friend.

In January, Suchonic received a kidney from the friend he has known for 36 years.

TIME OF NEED

DeCristoforo made a gesture that goes beyond the expectations of most friendships.

Still, he believes he just did what one friend does for another. Suchonic, 41, needed the kidney. DeCristoforo provided it.

While the two had lost some contact for a few years when DeCristoforo, his wife, Laura and their children moved to Camp Hill, Pa., they reconnected after both families relocated to Cranberry Township in the mid-1990s.

Suchonic was diagnosed with decreased kidney function 10 years ago. In 2010, tests showed the function was decreasing at a rapid pace, and he was placed on a regional list for kidney donation. In June 2011, he began an at-home dialysis treatment five days a week and started pre-transplant testing. By then, he wasn’t feeling well and had lost 30 pounds.

“We knew about Steve’s kidneys for quite some time,” DeCristoforo explained.

Meanwhile, Suchonic was told to talk to those close to him to see if they were compatible.

“I wasn’t big on accepting a living donor because I didn’t want anyone I cared about to have to go through that,” he said, adding his brother was tested but wasn’t a good match. “I mean, how do you repay someone who gives you a kidney?”

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