From the heart
Worker injured at Ground Zero to give kidney to stranger

Newsday Staff Writer
January 4, 2007

John Feal knows a lot about suffering. Permanently disabled during rescue efforts at the World Trade Center, he dedicated his life to helping others. Now he is giving even more than money or time - he is donating a precious kidney to a former Queens man he met over the Internet.

"He went to my Web site,, and told me what good work I was doing," said Feal of Paul Grossfeld, a former Sunnyside resident who now lives in Marlboro, N.J. After Grossfeld told him he needed a kidney, Feal didn't think twice. "I told him, I'll do it. "

Seven days after the terrorist attacks, Feal was working demolition at Ground Zero when an 8,000-pound steel beam fell onto his left foot. The man next to him fainted when he saw the blood spurting from the injury. Feal, an Army veteran from Nesconset, made a tourniquet out of his belt and yelled for help.

After doctors at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan stabilized the foot with pins, gangrene set in. Feal lost half his foot. Through his recovery, he said he felt his life spiraling downward. He couldn't work, he had to cope with excruciating pain, and most of all, he had to deal with the unending frustration of trying to get disability benefits.

But Feal, 40, turned his misfortune into a will to help others. He started the FealGood Foundation, which helps injured 9/11 first responders and workers navigate the maze of paperwork for disability payments and medical treatment. He also raises money for those financially devastated by the event.

"After [the accident], I was ruined," Feal said. "But my mother was my guiding force. " His mother, who died of cancer in April, never complained, said Feal, teaching him to come to terms with his own pain.

Grossfeld, in the meantime, had his own crisis. He was in desperate need of a kidney.

Grossfeld spent 25 years as a volunteer paramedic in Queens and later in North Massapequa, where he lived before moving to New Jersey. Two years ago, he was coaching baseball when a player told him he didn't look well. "I thought it was the heat," he said.

Grossfeld, 55, who has diabetes, was in kidney failure. He is now on dialysis three days a week. A transplanted kidney is his only chance for a normal life, he said, but every time it looked like he might get one, the opportunity fell through.

Grossfeld, who is married and has a 12-year-old son, said he enrolled with Many of the replies he received were from people wanting $50,000 for their kidney.

"One day, I got a hit on the Web site. I flew out to Chicago to meet the man," Grossfeld said. When he got to the airport, his cell phone rang. It was the potential donor saying he had changed his mind.

Disillusioned, Grossfeld said he was surfing the Internet one night when he found Feal's Web site. He wrote Feal and asked whether he could link his Web site requesting a kidney to Feal's.

"He called the next morning and introduced himself," Grossfeld said. "He said, 'You got yourself a kidney. '"

It took a while for Grossfeld to believe that Feal, a complete stranger, was serious. Although they are not the same blood type, they said they have been deemed compatible by the renal transplant team at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, and will know in two weeks the date of the surgery.

"I will be able to enjoy my family and see my son grow. I can watch him fulfill his dreams," Grossfeld said. "John is giving me my life."

1 in 4

Odds of an identical match for kidney transplant between siblings

1 in 2

Odds of a partial match (3 antigens) between siblings

1 in 30,000

Odds of an identical match between unrelated people