This is a story of courage and profound humanity. In the petty, nasty, calculating and self-serving world that too often passes for American politics today, it gives pause, reminds us that as human beings we can do better, be better, care about more than getting ahead.
I heard about the gift of 35-year-old East Haven, Ct., Mayor April Capone Almon on National Public Radio yesterday. I came home to see what more I might learn about her. The mayor’s website for the Town of East Haven shows her to be an attractive woman with a warm smile and dark, wavy hair. It invites residents to call anytime between 8:30 and 4:30, Monday through Friday, to set up an appointment. Her town bio tells visitors that she was born and raised in East Haven, received an MBA from Southern Connecticut State University, and is the first woman and the youngest individual elected mayor of this town of about 30,000. And it offers a few quotes that give the mayor’s philosophy.
“We’re going to work together to usher in a new era of open-door government for our town,” read one.
Standard political fare really. Only a quote above her biography by Bobby Kennedy (“Some men see the world as it is and ask why. I dream of a world that is yet to be and ask why not?”) even remotely suggests why the mayor earlier this month gave up one of her two functioning kidneys to a mere acquaintance, a father named Carlos Sanchez who cried out for help on Facebook.
It is a remarkable story, one that aside from the story on NPR, which you can listen to here, has received modest attention. Here is how the Associated Press, in a story posted on the NPR site, described their first exchange:
Sanchez, a 44-year-old father whose kidneys were failing because of diabetes, sent out the request on Facebook only hesitantly and on his doctor’s suggestion. He worried people might pity him — and certainly hadn’t pinned his hopes on finding a donor that way.
He didn’t have long to wait. Capone Almon was the first person to respond.
“I sent him a private message and just said, ‘Hey, I’ll try. I’ll get tested,'” Capone Almon said Wednesday. “I really felt from the very beginning that I was going to be a match and a donor. I don’t know why, but I just knew it.”
Sanchez had no such certainty.
“I thought she was joking. The mayor of East Haven would offer me her kidney?” said Sanchez, an office administrator. “She responded back and said, ‘I am serious, I am willing to get tested.’
“I wasn’t putting too much faith in it,” he said. “I didn’t want to get my hopes high. But at a point she made me feel so comfortable that I started feeling maybe this was meant to be.”
Surgeons at Yale-New Haven Hospital removed the mayor’s left kidney and transplanted it on April 8, AP reports. Patient and donor are doing well.
And what did Capone Almon tell the AP’s reporter after the surgery?
“I don’t want people to see this as something larger than life,” she said. “There’s nothing special about me. Anybody can try to do this …”
Except for a stranger or a mere acquaintance, almost nobody would. “I know she doesn’t like to be called a hero,” Sanchez told NPR, “but I consider her my angel.”
Other than the fact that she’s a Democrat, I know next to nothing Capone Almon’s political philosophy. But if she ever runs for higher office, she can count on my vote.