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Tucson man donates kidney to lifelong mentor

17-year friendship becomes lifetime bond filled with hope
Kendrick Pittman and George Sallaberry at Banner University Medical Center
Posted at 1:20 PM, Aug 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 02:00:09-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A special bond is sealed for life between two Tucson men who are generations apart. Now, one of them is giving the gift of life to the other to save the other.

32-year-old Kendrick Pittman and his lifelong mentor 74-year-old George Sallaberry have been friends for more than 17 years.

George a retired Army Colonel started mentoring Kendrick at 15, the teen was from a broken home and his life was headed in the wrong direction. After some thought, George saw potential in Kendrick and worked with him over the years to get his life in order and it worked.

“When I first met him, he was an angry young man he was incarcerated at the Catalina Mountain School. I’m very proud of him he’s turned into a productive citizen he’s a great father he’s a reliable and responsible man,” Sallaberry said.

“He’s like a rock, he’s been there when no one else was there. It's amazing how much a human being can change just by having a positive support system," Pittman said.

Over time, that mentorship became a special friendship that grew into a family.

“It just became a couple of guys hanging out together even though there’s 42 years difference in our ages,” Sallaberry said.

Then recently, George found out that he had Stage 4 kidney disease and shared the news with Kendrick. Without hesitation, Kendrick immediately got tested to see if he was a match. It turns out that Kendrick was a perfect match, as a matter of fact he was an even better match than Georges own family, it was a miracle in the making.

“I wanted to give back to him in a meaningful way. I told him jokingly, I said I sucked 17-years of life out of you let me at least give you 20 years back you know. I’m in awe of this whole process how he rescued me when I needed rescuing and all of a sudden God says now, I got you through him,” Pittman said

On August 12, 2021 the pair checked into Banner University Medical Center for the transplant, and it was a success.

“He’s going to change my quality of life for the next 15 to 20 years,” Sallaberry said.

In a time filled with unknowns, stress and worry, Kendrick and George say they're a reminder that there is still good in the world and that people can do the right thing. That's because in one way or another we are all connected.

“Bless him and I thank him and here’s the thing if people don’t believe in miracles let me tell you a story because we have one right here,” Sallaberry said.

"I’m so grateful to be a part of this and all glory to God he’s the one writing my story,” Pittman said