Kansas turkey hunt inspires kidney donation

LOCAL FOLKS: Kansas turkey hunting trip inspires kidney donation
by Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
Avid turkey hunter Rob Robinson displays his record-setting Eastern turkey at his home near Eupora. Robinson recently donated a kidney to a friend he met while turkey hunting in Kansas. (C. Todd Sherman)

Avid turkey hunter Rob Robinson displays his record-setting Eastern turkey at his home near Eupora. Robinson recently donated a kidney to a friend he met while turkey hunting in Kansas. (C. Todd Sherman)

WEBSTER COUNTY – Rob Robinson’s first meeting with Gillan Alexander was routine.

An avid hunter from rural Webster County, Robinson asked Alexander, a Western Kansas farmer, if he could hunt on his land. Sure, Alexander said, as long as you respect it.

It was a drill the hunter and landowner had practiced dozens of times with dozens of others.

The remarkable part came four years later when both men found themselves in a Kansas City hospital, where Robinson donated a kidney to his new friend.

“Now that I know Rob, it doesn’t surprise me he would do something like that,” said Alexander, 55. “He is quite a guy.”

After the initial meeting in the fall of 2008, Robinson, 43, returned to Alexander’s land a few times to hunt turkeys. He camped there last November, and this past April, Alexander insisted Robinson stay with him at the house. The two discovered they enjoyed similar TV shows – CSI, Criminal Minds and Big Bang Theory – and hobbies – snow skiing, water skiing and scuba diving.

They began texting each other daily, discussing the weather and their lives.

The April visit was also when the Mississippi man learned his new friend had been fighting a kidney disease for about 20 years and was badly in need of a transplant.

“I came back and told my wife I was thinking about donating a kidney,” he said.

Alexander insists he had no idea of Robinson’s plan. When he received a text in August the hunter had sent away for blood work and discovered his kidney was a match, the Kansas man was floored.

“It blew my doors off,” said Alexander, who named his kidney “Mississippi.” “I did a glory, hallelujah fit. I started crying and praising God and crying and praising God. I didn’t know what to think.”

The transplant was successfully completed on Nov. 26. Shortly before then, Robinson’s wife, Sharon, joined him in Kansas to celebrate Thanksgiving with the Alexander family. Both men were out of the hospital within four days, and both say they feel great today. They’ve also become advocates for organ donation.

“I gave a gift to Gil, but I feel like I’ve been given a gift, too,” said Robinson, who also works as a Starkville firefighter.

He’d hunted in Kansas numerous times before first meeting Alexander and even lived in the state for three years during the 90s. In 2007, he killed a huge Eastern turkey to set a Kansas record that still stands. While hunting pheasants in the area, he’d noticed Alexander’s land and the trees that made it a great place to catch birds.

“It wasn’t random at all,” Alexander said of their meeting. “God had a plan. It seems random, and in a sense it was, but it was meant to be.”

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com

About Chris Elkins

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