ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A Rochester man has a new lease on life following a kidney transplant. He found his living donor in the most surprising of places.

The kind of friendship between Michael Ruiz and Peter Seidenberg isn’t the kind that just grows on trees.

“We just hit it off,” said Ruiz. “In fact, Sunday we were finishing each other’s sentences.”

Lifelong friends, born in the same hospital — hours apart, in the same ward. Their birth announcements were listed in the paper right next to each other. The pair finally met at age 14, when both enrolled at Aquinas Institute in Rochester.

“We made a fast connection,” said Seidenberg.

“Looking back on it, I can't pick one point where I could say he's my best friend,” added Ruiz. “It just grew.”

They were best man at each other’s weddings. They once owned a deejay business together.   

“We got a lot of good stories, many of them we can't tell and won’t admit to these days,” laughed Seidenberg.

“To explain my and Peter’s friendship, it’s a type of friendship, that no matter the miles, no matter the time, when we see each other, we talk to each other, it's like we've never missed a beat,” said Ruiz.

Four years ago, Michael passed out in a New York City subway, so he went to the hospital.

“Doctor came in and said, Mr. Ruiz, how long have you been on dialysis?” He recalled. “And I said, not. And so they determined that my kidneys were failing.”

Ruiz would need a transplant. But finding a donor isn’t easy. Last May, he posted his situation on Facebook, urging people to consider becoming an organ donor.   

Last summer, went out to lunch with his best friend.

“He says to me, 'Well, I know who your donor is,'” recalls Ruiz of the meeting with his best friend. “And I looked at him I said, 'Don’t tell me it’s you, you rat bastard.' He said, 'No, it’s my son Michael.' And that was it. I lost it.”

Sometimes, family runs deeper than blood.

“I saw it on Facebook,” said Michael Seidenberg. “I took a shower. I thought about it. I came out, and told my wife, I'm going to give Mike my kidney.”   

His wife agreed. Pete’s son Michael went through a battery of tests which determined he was a match.

For Michael, the decision to become a living donor came easy.

“I don't know how it could be a hard one,” he said. “You know, I have to. He has none, give one up. Don't whine about it.”

“He is a very brave man. A lot braver than I,” said Peter of his son. I was going to go through the testing, but I figured he didn't need the kidney that's the same age as the other his other two kidneys.”

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, there are more than 100,000 people on the national transplant waiting list for all types of organ transplants. With more than 46,000 organ transplants performed in 2023, the number of transplants performed last year jumped by 8.7% over the previous year.

Ruiz hopes by sharing his story, others will consider organ donation.   

“I kept saying, how do you thank someone for saving your life?” He said. “And Michael came in the room after surgery, he says, 'I didn't save your life. I prolonged it, so don't screw it up!'”

In life, our true friends are more like family.

“Now, now instead of being brothers, I'm like his stepson,” laughed Ruiz.   

A special bond. And the gift — of life.

“I just I can't believe how blessed I am,” he said.