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Veteran meets the kidney donor who saved his life

Veteran meets the man who gave him a kidney
Veteran meets the man who gave him a kidney 02:59

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- It's not often we hear about people getting the chance to personally thank the person who saved their life, but that's exactly what happened inside Pittsburgh's veteran affairs hospital on Wednesday.

In a story you'll see only on KDKA-TV, two men, strangers until today, are no longer taking the little things for granted.

Underneath a clear blue sky and a waving American flag, veteran Craig Querns got his second chance at life in Pittsburgh. 

"She said, 'we have a donor for you,' and I had to find the first person at work to tell. There was nobody right next to me -- I had to walk around and tell somebody," Querns said.

This 20-year veteran, husband, father and grandfather needed a new kidney to live. And he knew absolutely nothing about the man who would make it happen.

"I was anxious but, OK, well, God knows who it is. I don't need to know right now," Querns said. 

But today he finally put a face to the stranger who saved his life, meeting his donor seven days after the successful surgery.

"Thank you again for all that you've done and given me a second chance at life," Querns said. 

Ben Kornelis from Minneapolis first signed up to donate after a good friend of his nephew -- an Army medic -- needed a kidney.

"He received a kidney from someone else, I think back last April maybe, and he's doing great and I was just asked to keep my name on the list and I didn't really know him, so why not do it for someone else that I don't know too," Kornelis said. 

He's an altruistic and living donor. It seems he doesn't realize just how special that really is, but his wife Pat does.

"It is who Ben is so it's not surprising to me that he'd want to do that, so it's meant to be," Pat Kornelis said.

Craig's wife Tammy didn't get excited until they walked through the doors. His past three transplant options had ended in disappointment.

"And it's been an amazing experience with this hospital. They have been phenomenal. Phenomenal," Tammy Querns said.

And so are Craig's future plans, free from his large dialysis machine. He looks forward to getting back in the pool at the YMCA and actually playing with his grandkids. Little things that mean so much are now possible again thanks to one man's selfless act.

"To give someone another chance at life I would think would be enough of a reason for somebody to want to donate as long as they're healthy themselves of course," Querns said. 

"Especially if someone has an unusual blood type, those recipients are probably waiting for a lot longer and it might just be a nudge for someone to give it more consideration," Kornelis said. 

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