Retired NJ firefighter donates kidney to lifelong friend

More than 18,000 kidney transplants performed across the United States, officials say.
CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A retired firefighter, who made a career focused on saving lives, has now saved one more: that of his lifelong friend.

Kevin Kenniff and John Dell-Aquilo have had each other's back since joining the Cherry Hill Fire Department as teenagers.

Kevin remained a firefighter while John went on to become a police officer. But the pair remained friends in the 47 years since.

For 20 of those years, John battled kidney disease.

So when John received life-threatening news last fall, Kevin immediately jumped in to help.

In less than six months, the friends went from discussing John needing a transplant to finding out Kevin was a match.

While both have since retired to Florida, they choose to do the transplant operation at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia on July 13.

"I still get choked up when I see Kevin. Just an incredible gift what Kevin did for me," John said.

"We go into battle together. When John introduced me to the living donor program, I thought it was just a continuation of that path I took to protect my brother and sister firefighters," Kevin said.

According to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing, in 2021 there have been more than 18,000 kidney transplants performed across the United States.

But in the past month, 100 people per day were added to the waitlist. Genetically-related members are more likely compatible living kidney donors.

"Someone needs an organ and we all say, 'geez we hope someone helps them out,' but we are that someone," Kevin said.

The friends have both retired along the Gulf Coast in Florida.

For more information on becoming a kidney donor CLICK HERE.

Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.