Norfolk State Alum Gives Former Roommate Part of His Kidney

The story of a former Norfolk State University student is making the national news for his act of kindness.

According to NBC News, Steven Robinson had not seen his college roommate in 21 years. When he realized on a family trip to Detroit that he was within driving distance of Richard Koonce, he called his friend to ask if he could visit. 

The former Norfolk State roommates reminisced about their time at the HBCU but Robinson noticed his old friend had a lost a lot of weight.

It turned out, Koonce had been battling a rare liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC, since 2019 and was in need of a liver transplant. 

Without even hesitating, Robinson offered to donate a piece of his liver to his old friend.

“It’s a special man who would volunteer to do something like this,” Koonce told NBC News. “Steve is special.” 

The two friends’ unlikely story highlights the need for more Black organ donors in the United States, where Black people make up the largest share of minorities in need of organ transplants, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health report.

Nearly 84% of organs received from Black people in 2020 were from donors who had died, according to study, but only about 16% of Black organ donations that year came from living donors.

That’s less than half the roughly 33% of white living donors who donated organs in 2020. 

“Living donors are very, very important,” Dr. Velma Scantlebury told NBC News. “When you have someone who can donate to you, you’re not competing with the hundreds or thousands in your region also waiting for a deceased organ, which can take as long as five or seven years. You eliminate the risk of dying from an illness related to your liver while waiting on the list.”