Two Strangers, One Kidney, a New Documentary

THE CONNECTION | Natalia Megas

From left: Tom Shadyac, Harold Mintz, Gennet Belay, and Tsegaye Wolde at their premiere at the Washington West Film Festival in Reston.
Sixteen years ago, Springfield resident Gennet Belay got the phone call that saved her life. She was one of three candidates for a kidney transplant and a few days later, became the lucky recipient.

“I was very happy,” recalls the shy and humble mother of two who went on the transplant waiting list a year after she arrived from Ethiopia 12 years prior. Belay had been suffering from nephritic syndrome and her kidneys were only functioning at 10 percent. Her prospects were grim.

But it was a complete stranger from Falls Church, Harold Mintz, who donated one of his kidneys to Belay that piqued her curiosity.

“I wanted to know, who is this man?” she recalls. “It’s easy to give clothes, and things. But it’s not easy to give life.”

Mintz grabbed headlines that year for donating his kidney to Belay and becoming one of the first living donors in an organ donation program organized by the Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC).

MINTZ AND BELAY’S subsequent meeting, organized after the donor and recipient agreed to it, only solidified their bond, a connection they now share for life, and a “rebirthday,” Belay’s term for the anniversary of the donation. Continue reading