By Tim Harfmann
FLUSHING — Thanks to one man, two strangers have now been united for life.
A Times Square billboard paved the way for a meeting at Citi Field on July 24, when the Mets played the San Diego Padres, as longtime Mets fan Ruth Tisak met NYPD Detective Michael Lollo for the first time after Lollo donated one of his kidneys to Tisak last December.
The feat that was made possible by Marc Weiner, a Long Island resident, who’s in need of a kidney himself.
Weiner arranged for a 5,000-square-foot billboard in Times Square last year asking for a kidney. He had lost his kidneys because of bladder cancer. He’s now cancer-free, and undergoes dialysis three times a week.
Weiner’s wife, Lisa Weiner, is a friend of the president of a national billboard company that had the spot on Broadway for the ad. It was up last summer through the end of November. It read, “My name is Marc, I need a kidney. YOU can help!”
The sign caught Lollo’s eye, and he attempted to donate a kidney to Weiner. The two weren’t a match, but Lollo didn’t give up.
“Even though he wasn’t a match to me and he was a match to Ruth, it’s great I was able to [bring] some type of awareness with my billboard,” Weiner said. “When I first found out, I was extremely proud and grateful that there was a match.”
Across the country, more than 113,000 people are on the waiting list for a transplant. Every 10 minutes, another person is added to the list. About 20 people die each day waiting for an organ.
“My time will come, but the idea that we bring more awareness to what’s going on is proof that this worked and that the billboard did something,” Weiner said at Citi Field. “It’s just surreal knowing that an organ of mine is standing right next to me, but not in my body.”
Tusak said that as she waited for a kidney, she had faith in God.
“I always say I leave it all to Him. He works in His own, mysterious ways. So everything was left to Him, and He found me somebody.”
Weiner, meanwhile, is still waiting for a match.
“My time will come,” he said. “But the idea that we bring more awareness to what’s going on is proof that this worked and that the billboard did something.”