Promise kept between 2 Cleveland firefighters could be life-saving for 12-year-old girl

Published: May. 4, 2023 at 11:19 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s a story that tugs at your heartstrings...

It starts with two firefighters in the same training class 10 years ago.

One made a promise to the other, and a decade later, a promise made is a promise kept.

That promise had a fire lieutenant give what could be a life-saving gift to his close friend’s daughter.

Cleveland Fire Lt. Dan Sunyak died in 2021, leaving behind a wife and three children.

But, a vow made to him in 2013 by Cleveland Fire Lt. Joseph “Jake” Konys is came on time to help Sunyak’s 12-year-old daughter, Lena.

She suffers from a genetic kidney disease, and is in need of a transplant.

“It means a lot to me, I was very happy when I heard it, I cried. That’s how happy I was,” Lena Sunyak told 19 News.

Her mother, Megan O’Shea, said, “It’s amazing. I think the bond that those guys formed from the academy.”

Lt. Konys donated his kidney on Wednesday, and is now recovering at University Hospitals.

“They talk about the fire department being a family and I believe that’s true, and Lena’s got a much bigger family than she might realize right now,” he told 19 News from his hospital bed.

Konys said before Sunyak died, he was worried about kidney transplants that all three of his children will eventually need.

“It weighed on him and we told him don’t worry about it. We’re here for ya. We’ll find you a kidney,” Konys stated.

Now, here’s the tricky part... Lena won’t receive Konys’ kidney because their blood type is not compatible.

But, his kidney is now a match for someone else.

“Lena will be getting a kidney from a different donor and that kidney chain is much wider than just the two of them. So, multiple organ donors and multiple recipients are affected by this larger kidney chain,” O’Shea stated.

It’s a true gift of a lifetime for a young girl by a firefighter who is no stranger to emergencies, and promised the child’s father he would gladly come to the rescue.

Lena could receive her kidney transplant by the end of May.

Her mother is convinced that along with Lt. Konys, Lena’s father is acting like a guardian angel to make sure his baby girl will be okay.