Kelly Sowatsky fought back the tears after meeting Pittsburgh Penguins players on Thursday morning. This wasn’t just her favorite hockey team; this was the organization that helped save her life.
On March 31, 2018, Sowatsky attended a Penguins’ game against the Montreal Canadiens at PPG Paints Arena. She needed a new kidney. She decided to make a desperate plea at the game, with a sign she created that read: “Calling All Hockey Fans! I need a kidney, kidney, kidney! Gratefully yours, Kelly.” It also included a phone number.
“I remember walking into the ‘Paint Can’ that day. I had that sign in my hand. I knew it was going to work somehow,” she said, via the Penguins, “but never in my wildest dreams did I think it would go viral.”
Her sign was featured inside the arena and tweeted out by the Penguins. It took off from there, getting national news coverage. Eventually, a Penguins fan named Jeff Lynd in Delaware saw it. He reached out, and offered his kidney to see if it was a match. Eight months later, a successful kidney transplant was performed at UPMC hospital on Nov. 6.
The Penguins invited Sowatsky and Lynd for a day at the rink on Thursday, meeting players and watching the Penguins’ 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings in a suite.
“These guys do stuff like this all the time. But I hope they understand what it meant for me to be here,” Sowatsky said. “What this organization did for me is something I can never repay, and something I can never express, how grateful I am. It all started with a tweet.”