How Friendship and Solidarity Helped Saved a Life

The story of Warren and Alexandra

In a Critical Moment, Solidarity and Sacrifice

It may not seem like a single mother of three from the South Bronx and a retiree and grandfather from Lynbrook, Long Island, should have much in common. But a former floor coverer and a current high-rise concrete carpenter found a unique kinship with each other through solidarity and mutual respect.

Warren met Alexandra in 2016 during a .300 Hitters leadership training session at the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) International Training Center (ITC). The two were put in the same work-study group and became fast friends.

However, they wouldn’t meet again in person until three years later at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital— where Alexandra would give Warren one of her kidneys.

An Instant Response to Bad News

Alexandra was again at the ITC, participating in the Local 212 Next Level Training program, when she heard the news from a mutual friend: Warren had been diagnosed with Stage 6 kidney disease and was desperately searching for a match and donor.

“I was like, maybe I could help, because I’m a frequent blood donor and I know my blood type is O-positive, which is the universal blood type. It just so happens that I actually am a match,” Alexandra said.

Alexandra called Warren to offer her support and her kidney. “She said, ‘I’m O-positive, I’ll give you my kidney.’ Just like that,” Warren said. But it’s easier said than done, Warren noted. “I said are you serious about doing this? And she said, ‘Yeah absolutely. What do I do?’”

Both endured numerous x-rays, physical exams, giving dozens of vials of blood, and a psychological evaluation.

“Everyone says they’ll give you a kidney, but she followed through with everything,” Warren said. “I was still in a little bit of disbelief. She’s not a member of my family, like a cousin or an uncle, she’s a person that I met, and we knew each other three days.”

For Alexandra, the decision to donate was crystal clear. “I feel like everything happens for a reason,” she said. “I just felt in my heart like immediately I could help. I don’t know what came over me, but it was just like, I knew I could help. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

Despite caution from her family and friends, Alexandra knew she wanted to soldier on and never wavered in her resolve to help a friend. Even when Warren offered to send her MetroCards for commuting to the hospital, she said she wanted nothing in return.

“She never hesitated one bit. She never complained about anything. I want to promote her as the toughest carpenter I’ve ever met,” Warren said.

Forever United

Both members said they appreciate the UBC’s role in bringing them together and improving their lives overall.

Alexandra joined Local 212 in 2006 after learning about the union through Non-traditional Employment for Women (NEW). She credits the carpenters union with helping her build a stable and self-sufficient lifestyle.

“I used to live in low-income housing. I don’t know if you know that environment, but I know it all too well, and I’m happy I’m no longer there. Had it not been for the union, I would still be stuck in an environment like that,” she said.

Warren, a 31-year member, is even more blunt.

“If I didn’t have my health benefits, I would be screwed,” Warren said. “When I got my union job, it changed my whole life. It gave me the ability to earn a good living, raise kids, and put them all through college. The pension, the health benefits — they’re extremely important, especially if you do get sick.”

The morning before the surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, Warren and Alexandra met again in person for the first time since .300 Hitters. Exchanging hugs, joy, and laughter, they were ready. Fate may have brought them together, but it was solidarity, trust, and understanding that brought them so much farther.

Both members came out of the hospital happy and healthy. Alexandra is back at work and Warren continues the recovery process. He has checkups three times a week and will be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of his life, but it’s a small price to pay for a second chance at life.

“Everyone knows they got a guardian angel, but I get to meet mine,” he said.

As for Alexandra, she has no regrets.

“I’m the type of person where I feel like, if I’m here for a reason in this lifetime, at least I was able to see this great thing. Most people, when they pass, then they’ll take their organs. This one guy at my job said, ‘You could’ve sold that organ!’ I just started laughing and said, ‘Well, I don’t know if God would appreciate that much.’ But you know, I’m doing it out of the kindness of my heart because I’m able to. And it just feels good to help a brother.

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