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Longtime 'brothers' share how leaning on faith during transplant journey led to longer life

Rev. Colenzo Hubbard and Lee Giovannetti have been friends for nearly 25 years. When one needed a kidney, the other stepped up.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two brothers in Christ: one saved the other by donating a kidney.

It all happened in 2021 when Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare reached a milestone number of organ transplants, the most in its history.

“I’d like to actually tackle him if I could but I’m afraid he’s pretty tough,” commented Lee Giovannetti to his longtime friend.  

Actually, these two are more than friends.

“I’m pretty slow now I probably couldn’t get you,” replied Reverend Colenzo Hubbard.  

They’re quick to tell you they’re more like brothers. 

When it comes to lasting brotherhood, Giovannetti shared the advice of his father.

“As you get older, look for someone that you think, exemplifies what Christ would be like if he were on earth today," he said. "All I can tell you is I've only met one person that can qualify under that description, and we're looking at him right now.”

Rev. Hubbard is an Episcopal priest and Giovannetti is a Catholic businessman. The two met at a luncheon in the 90s.

Hubbard is the former executive director of the nonprofit, the Emmanuel Center, where Giovannetti invested money and time. 

The two have since been friends for nearly 25 years, seeing one another through the death of a spouse and hardships at work.

“Those are the times when you find out who your real friends are and he was there all the time,” said Giovannetti.  

“Lee is someone that I trust,” shared Hubbard. “He’s a brother that I don’t question when it comes to integrity.” 

When Giovannetti learned Hubbard needed of a life-saving kidney, he took action, reasoning, “Why not me? Why can’t I do it?”

He underwent the necessary examinations only to be turned down twice since the two’s blood types were not compatible.

Instead, the two took part in a paired kidney exchange, where Giovannetti donated his kidney to a person in need, allowing Hubbard to receive his own from a willing living donor. 

The surgeries took place at the Transplant Institute at Methodist University Hospital.

“God can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or even imagine,” shared Hubbard. “You never know where your blessings are going to come from. “

Hubbard said he would have never approached Lee about a kidney transplant, but instead believes it was an answered call.

“It was God at work in Lee that prompted him to say 'I’ll do it'," he said.

Giving his friend, rather a brother, an inner peace.

“Whether or not it did a whole lot for me in the life thereafter, hopefully, it did,” laughed Giovannetti. “What matters to me is that it gave Colenzo more life here on this earth to do what he was sent down here to do.”

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