Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Journey of Loss for Onefamily and the Gift of Life for Another

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Journey of Loss for Onefamily and the Gift of Life for Another

Article excerpt

Slouched in an office chair in a subdued hotel conference room Thursday, John Bond waited to thank a stranger for saving his life.

He'd received a kidney transplant from Olga Kemaeva's husband after the Russian man was killed while visiting Pittsburgh. Waiting for her to arrive, he felt nervous, really nervous.

"What do you say to someone?" he wondered aloud. "They lost a husband, the kids lost a father ... I can't say much more than thank you."

Both families had come so far and through so much to end up in Pittsburgh, in this beige conference room on a snowy gray day.

Unexpected phone calls had yanked both Mr. Bond and Ms. Kemaeva from their lives.

Ms. Kemaeva's call came first.

Her husband, Anton Kemaev, 35, was shot in the head at 6 p.m. Dec. 19 while riding in the front passenger seat of a car on Second Avenue in South Oakland. His friend, who was driving, was not hurt.

Police said neither man was the shooter's intended target. The case is unsolved; investigators haven't said who was shooting or why and haven't released any suspect descriptions.

After he was shot, Mr. Kemaev hung on for nine days.

His friend, Vladimir Shlyakhtin, of Greenfield, is the one who made the call to Russia, where Ms. Kemaeva and her three children had remained at home while Mr. Kemaev traveled.

Ms. Kemaeva, who does not speak English, immediately began the process to get to Pittsburgh, though she'd never traveled internationally before. Her friends drove her to the local airport in Novosibirsk, where she lives, and she flew to Moscow.

It took four days to get an emergency visa.

Another plane ride to New York City, a transfer and a short flight to Pittsburgh followed.

Mr. Shlyakhtin met Ms. Kemaeva at the airport at nearly midnight on Dec. 27.

The next morning they went to the hospital and Ms. Kemaeva made the decision to take her husband, who had no brain activity, off life support. …

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