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Transplant reunites old Fresh Meadows friends

By Howard Koplowitz

He found a match while logging onto the social networking site Facebook.com from his hospital bed at Cornell Weill Medical Center, where he hooked up with Karl Celestin – a friend he had lost touch with after the two attended a Fresh Meadows Catholic school together seven years ago.After contacting each other on Facebook, Manier and Celestin got together over winter break, when Manier was on recess from Long Beach State University and Celestin had time off from medical school in the Dominican Republic.”We started hanging out literally every day,” said Celestin, 21, of Valley Stream, L.I.The friends, who attended Holy Family School in Fresh Meadows together, lost touch after Manier, 21, moved to California seven years ago.When Manier, who was diagnosed with a rare and potentially deadly kidney disease called focal segmental glomuerulosclerosis, told Celestin he needed a transplant, Celestin said the decision to offer his kidney to his friend was a no-brainer.”We turned out to be a match,” said Celestin. “It wasn't a hard decision at all. There was nothing awkward about it.”Manier said he did not expect Celestin to offer his kidney to him.”He made it seem like there was no question about it. He was like, 'Yo, I'll give you my kidney, man,' ” Manier recalled the conversation. “I was amazed when he said he'd give me his kidney. I was like, 'Wow.' “If not for Celestin, Manier would have faced an 11-year wait for a kidney.The transplant was to be conducted Tuesday. Both men and Manier's mother, Gail Holman, were not worried about the operation.”I have no doubt everything's going to work out fine,” Celestin said.Holman called Celestin's gesture “a miracle.”It's a blessing. It's been a real battle, so this is a real blessing,” she said. “Ricardo will have a healthy life to achieve his dreams now.”Manier will be joining Celestin at American Union School of Medicine in the Dominican Republic. He said he hopes to become a nephrologist or a kidney doctor, when he finishes his schooling.In honor of Manier and Celestin, City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) held a blood drive Sunday at Holy Family, where the two legislators donated their blood.”They are going to be together binded by that kidney for many years to come,” Stavisky said. “Karl gives new meaning to the phrase 'gift of life.' He is giving a gift of life.”In speaking about the importance of organ donation, Stavisky said 98,000 people are waiting for organs. She said from January 2007 to November 2007, 26,000 transplants were performed, but only 13,000 people donated an organ.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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