Preparing to give the gift of life — and putting the journey on YouTube

Sunday, April 6, 2008
SARAH CONARD ~ Associated Press Michael Moore, of Westfield, Ind., right, chatted Wednesday with his friend Stephen Gottschalk of Hillsboro, Mo., in Gottschalk's room at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Moore lost 50 pounds so he could donate his kidney to Gottschalk and documented his weight loss on YouTube.

ST. LOUIS — We like to think there isn't anything we wouldn't do for a friend, but Michael A. Moore has the proof: On Thursday, he donated his kidney to his best friend, and to do so he lost 50 pounds in five months while chronicling his experience in video clips on YouTube.

Stephen Gottschalk, 50, of Hillsboro, Mo., says his friend Moore, 51, is saving his life. Moore, in return, says Gottschalk has given him a new lease on his own.

In 2006, Gottschalk started dialysis, but knew it wasn't a permanent solution. He has Alport's disease, a genetic condition that caused his kidneys to fail.

Moore, his friend since junior high, called him last year and said he wanted to be tested to see if he could donate a kidney.

"On Nov. 19, they said we have some good news and some bad news. You're a match, but you're pre-diabetic, so we can't take you," Moore recalled.

He decided being pre-diabetic was something he could change, and set out to lose weight so he could become a good donor candidate. He went on the low-carb Atkins diet, lost about 25 pounds, and when his weight loss slowed, began intense workouts, including bike rides.

He started recording videos and posting them to YouTube. They're numerous, low-key and were just intended for Gottschalk, to keep his spirits up, but hospital officials say they also help to shed light on his organ donation process.

SARAH CONARD ~ Associated Press Michael A. Moore of Westfield, Ind., right, chatted Wednesday with his friend Stephen Gottschalk of Hillsboro, Mo., in Gottschalk's room at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Moore lost 50 pounds so he could donate his kidney to Gottschalk and documented his weight loss on YouTube.

At Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis the day before the transplant surgery, Moore was down to 200 pounds from 250, and said he conquered both the "turkey wattle under his neck" and his former "man boobs."

"If you came to me on Nov. 19 and said, 'Mike, you've got to stop eating chocolate or you'll die,' I'd have said, 'Let's order a chocolate cake and plan a funeral.' I would not have lost this weight for myself."

But for Gottschalk, he could. The two cemented their friendship when they played on the same football team at Hillsboro High School.

Having a best friend who works as a kidney donor match isn't common, but also not unheard of. What amazes most who learn of the men's story is not the science of the transplant, but the strength of the friendship.

Both men were doing well immediately after the operations.

After the surgery, Moore planned to give Gottschalk a "deed of transfer and ownership" for Gottschalk's new organ. Printed on official-looking document paper, it said Moore had freely and willingly donated his right kidney to his friend.

He joked if he was in pain after the operation: "I look forward to sitting in Steve's recovery room and blaming him."

On the Net

Moore's videos of preparing to be an organ donor:

* www.youtube.com/user/FirehouseMike

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