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Despite rivalry, Buffalo Bills fan donates kidney to save New England Patriots fan

Published: Jun. 25, 2020 at 1:16 AM CDT
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (Spectrum News/CNN) - A Buffalo Bills fan who donated his kidney to a young woman - and New England Patriots fan - he had never met says he wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again, if he could.

Ken Burke, a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan, drove from Buffalo, New York, to Boston in March to donate a kidney to Cassie Yahnian, a woman in her 20s he had never met who also happens to be a New England Patriots fan.

“I was just looking through social media one day and happened upon a post of a young woman who was looking for a kidney. She seemed like she was having a pretty rough go. It spoke to me.... I thought that must be pretty terrible. She must feel pretty alone,” Burke said.

Ken Burke, a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan, donated his kidney in March to Cassie Yahnian, a woman in her 20s he had never met who also happens to be a New England Patriots fan.
Ken Burke, a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan, donated his kidney in March to Cassie Yahnian, a woman in her 20s he had never met who also happens to be a New England Patriots fan.(Source: Ken Burke/Cassie Yahnian/Spectrum News Buffalo/CNN)

As the world was facing shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic, Yahnian and Burke were recovering from their procedures. Despite the restrictions, Yahnian felt free. Leading up to the surgery, her life was filled with daily dialysis treatments, just struggling to keep her kidney disease from worsening.

Thanks to Burke, Yahnian is now feeling much better.

"I feel great. It was crazy. After surgery, after I got out of the hospital, within two weeks, I started hiking," she said.

Burke says that if he had to go back in time, he wouldn’t hesitate to make the same decision to donate his kidney, even if it was to the fan of a rival football team.

"There's one Patriots fan out there that's got a Bills fan inside of her. You know, she may be a Patriots fan on the outside, but she's a Bills fan on the inside," Burke said.

Yahnian says she hopes her story gives others hope that someone may be willing to donate to help them.

"Everyone's ingrained with that feeling of someone's life is better because you were here, and it was just one of those kind of things, like I know for 100% certainty someone's life is completely different because I had the courage to show up that day," Burke said.

Anyone interested in being a living kidney donor can learn more from the National Kidney Foundation’s website.

Copyright 2020 Spectrum News Buffalo, Ken Burke, Cassie Yahnian via CNN. All rights reserved.

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