Man, 68, donates kidney to save childhood friend’s life

Two friends who became blood brothers more than half a century ago now share much more. (KVRR, Family photos, Cell phone video)
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 2:43 AM CDT
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DOUGLAS, Wyo. (KVRR) - A Wyoming man facing kidney disease recently celebrated his 63rd birthday, one his son was afraid he wouldn’t see, thanks to a lifelong friend who gave him a kidney.

The journey of childhood friends Ron Lambert, 68, and Phil Ladwig, 63, goes back decades in the tiny town of Douglas, Wyoming. Lambert was 5 years old when his next-door neighbor, Ladwig, was born in 1960.

“Right when I was born, we bought a house on 9th Street, and [the] Ladwigs lived right next door,” Lambert said.

“I’ve known him from Day 1,” Ladwig said.

The two grew up together, doing some stupid stuff as teenagers, but they shared a bond that would foreshadow things to come.

“I think we were out in my front yard, and we decided, ‘Let’s become blood brothers.’ So, we scratched our fingers or hand or something and put them together and became blood brothers,” Lambert said.

A couple years ago, Ladwig’s health took a turn that he’d been expecting for most of his life.

“My brothers were all sick with kidney disease, too, so I knew I’d probably have it,” he said. “When it really started failing, I started getting real bad. I was losing my mind. I couldn’t think right.”

Ladwig went on the kidney transplant list. He has Type O blood, the hardest blood type to find a match for, because only another Type O kidney would work.

Guess what blood type his “blood brother” Lambert has?

“We were just talking on the phone one day, and he said, ‘You don’t want to get rid of a kidney, do you?’” Lambert said.

Lambert went through a battery of tests, and it was discovered the lifelong friends were the perfect match.

“The blood tests were so close we could have been brothers,” Lambert said.

Before the transplant could happen, Ladwig’s surgery got pushed back three times. He had a tumor on one of his kidneys that led to eight months of dialysis. There were times he thought it would literally kill him, but Lambert stood by him.

“The good Lord told me, he said, ‘You know, I’ve saved your life so many times, you don’t know, and I’ve given you such good, good health. I think you should share that health,’” Lambert said.

The surgery finally happened in April. Two friends who became blood brothers more than half a century ago now share much more.

“He’s got a piece of me in him, so yeah, we’re kind of bonded,” Lambert said.

“Everybody I told about this goes, ‘God, he must really like you!’” Ladwig said.

After decades of friendship, the two are closer than ever.