Penguins fan gets kidney transplant after sign goes viral

Via Twitter/@penguins

Some fans use signs to ask for souvenir pucks at hockey games.

Kelly Sowatsky used one to get a kidney.

The 31-year-old school teacher attended a Pittsburgh Penguins game last March with her fiancé armed with a plea that would save her life.

“Calling All Hockey Fans! I Need A Kidney! Kidney! Kidney! Gratefully Yours, Kelly,” read her sign, which was picked up by the Penguins’ social media team and tweeted out.

Jeff Lynd, all the way out in Delaware, stepped up to be Sowatsky’s saviour.

“I saw desperation and I saw courage,” Lynd, a teacher himself, told Good Morning America. “And I saw she needed help.”

Sowatsky felt sick on Christmas Eve in 2015, and was eventually taken to hospital with an infection that turned into septicemia. Her kidney function dropped to seven per cent and she was told she might have to wait up to five years before getting a kidney donation through the cadaveric donor list.

So she tried a different approach.

Her first attempt was at a Penguins road game in New Jersey, to not much success. She followed the team back home to PPG Paints Arena where her sign was noticed by Andi Perelman, director of new media for the Penguins.

“We saw the sign in the lower bowl. We sent a social photographer down to get a photo,” Perelman told “We had never seen a sign like that at a game. I thought, ‘we have to help if we can.'”

Lynd saw the tweet, and eight months later the transplant was made.

“There’s no words to really express the gratitude and the way I feel about what (Lynd) did for me because he literally saved my life,” said Sowatsky. “And the doctors, too. If you trickle it down, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the reason my life is being saved, too. If it weren’t for (Perelman) and for me loving the Penguins … “

Lynd has a more reductionist approach for who should get most of the credit: “She always cries and thanks me and I always tell her to thank Mario (Lemieux). If Mario didn’t save the team then none of us would be here.”


When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.