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Father-of-five's T-shirt ad finds kidney donor

Robert Leibowitz and his five children Image copyright Robert Leibowitz
Image caption Robert Leibowitz (second left) with his children in Disney World, Florida

A father-of-five has had a life-saving transplant in New York after his desperate T-shirt appeal to find a matching kidney donor was shared across social media.

Rob Leibowitz, who lives in New Jersey, had been on a waiting list for a donor for four years without success and decided to take matters into his own hands.

The advertising sales manager had a T-shirt printed with a banner on the front and back saying "In Need of Kidney" and his mobile phone number underneath.

Last week the kidney transplant was successfully carried out and now both Mr Leibowitz and his donor, Richie Sully, from Indiana, are recovering at their homes.

Image copyright Robert Leibowitz

Mr Leibowitz, 60, said: "All I wanted was more time to spend with my kids, and now I can have another 20 or 25 years.

"I can't put it into words. I feel amazing.

"Richie Sully is my hero."

Mr Leibowitz was diagnosed with kidney problems at the age of 12.

His kidney health gradually deteriorated, and four years ago he was told that to survive he would would need dialysis three times a week and ultimately a transplant.

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Because of his blood type, and the fact that two of his sons also have kidney problems, none of his children could be donors.

"I went on the 'deceased donors list' for a transplant, but I could have waited up to 10 years to get a match that way," he said.

Then last summer he decided to tackle the problem another way and turned himself into a walking billboard.

Image copyright Robert Leibowitz
Image caption Robert Leibowitz (left) said he bonded with his kidney donor, Richie Sully, immediately

"I love to go to Disney World with my kids and I thought where else am I going to go where I'm going to meet more people in the nine days that I'm there," he said.

"So I had the T-shirt printed and wore it every day."

The breakthrough came when a couple asked him if they could take a picture and posted it on their Facebook page.

Within a week, it had been shared more than 90,000 times.

"It was incredible. I had 300 calls and texts in seven days," said Mr Leibowitz.

It took a while to get to Mr Sully's message as Mr Leibowitz wanted to respond to everyone who had contacted him.

Three other people underwent the stringent testing procedures required before any donor can be approved, but all failed for different reasons.

Finally, Mr Sully was found to be a match.

'Cheap date'

Mr Leibowitz said Mr Sully had taken several 18-hour Greyhound bus trips from his home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to come to New York for the various tests and at one point had had to stay in the city for two weeks.

"Humanity has a new name and it's 'Richie Sully'," Mr Leibowitz said.

"We'll stay in touch. I'd be a pretty cheap date if I didn't."

Mr Leibowitz said he was now hoping to raise awareness of the importance of living donors.

"If you have [two kidneys], you can give one away and still live to be 100," he said.

"You can save a life."

By Annie Flury, UGC and Social News Team

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