As the Eagles and Chiefs prepare to face off in this Sunday’s Super Bowl, two football fans have already beat the odds.
John Gladwell and Billy Welsh first crossed paths while serving together in the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Welsh is a self-proclaimed lifelong fan of the Eagles, while Gladwell holds roots for the Chiefs.
The couple kept in touch occasionally via social media, and Welsh eventually learned he would need a life-saving kidney transplant. Welsh shared his need for a kidney on Facebook and Gladwell stepped in shortly after.
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Gladwell was tested and found to be compatible. The two would later undergo hours of surgery at a Philadelphia hospital.
Despite their connection today, the two men didn’t always get along.
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“We didn’t like each other while we were in,” Gladwell told KMBC-TV in Kansas City. “He was 17, he was young, he was too enthusiastic. I just wanted to go home. I wanted out,” he added.
“He was an idiot,” Welsh said of Gladwell.
But Welsh was shocked and very grateful that Gladwell had volunteered to be his kidney donor.
“I was shocked when he said he was a match and he would be in town next week, I cried,” Welsh said. “Never in a million years would I have thought that this guy would give me a kidney.”
Gladwell shared that he wanted Welsh to continue to be able to spend time with his family in the future.
“I don’t think I could live with myself if I could do something but didn’t. I wanted his dad to go to Eagles games, Phillies games, Flyers, 76ers, all of that. I wanted him to be able to experience all of that with his father,” Gladwell said.
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After the kidney donation, a diagnosed COVID-19 Gladwell would end up in intensive care. After being admitted, Gladwell would learn that he was suffering from kidney failure.
Gladwell was able to recover after a month. Welsh was glad to learn his friend had survived the ordeal.
“I’m so thankful he got through that both kidneys are still working,” Welsh said.
After word of the selfless act spread, the two men learned they were traveling to Arizona to see their respective teams at football’s biggest game.
Eagle President Don Smolenski reached out to the Chiefs, and both organizations, in turn, decided to help fans get to the Super Bowl. “The opportunity to bring these two guys together, their two teams, playing on the sport’s greatest stage is very, very humbling and rewarding,” Smolenski told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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While they will have different interests on Sunday, the duo’s bond looks unbreakable beyond the game. “He’s family,” Gladwell said. “He’s my hero,” Welsh said.
https://www.foxnews.com/sports/years-after-chiefs-fan-donated-his-kidney-eagles-fan-pair-now-head-super-bowl-lvii Years after a Chiefs fan donated his kidney to an Eagles fan, the couple is heading to Super Bowl LVII