BRECKSVILLE, Ohio (WJW) – A Brecksville grandfather of eight is sharing an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the life-saving gift received from his nephew.

“I don’t know how I’ll ever repay him,” said 70-year-old Tom Hartman.

Diagnosed with stage 4 liver disease in 2017 after suffering digestive issues since 2014, Hartman’s condition rapidly deteriorated by the 2020 holiday season.

Once 220 pounds, Hartman was just 134 pounds and in desperate need of an organ transplant.

He didn’t know his nephew, 47-year-old Paul Kuzmins, secretly began the testing process to see if a partial liver donation would save Hartman’s life.

“I was starting to lose hope that I get somebody. The deceased donor was not my option at the time and then eventually Paul stepped forward,” said Hartman, who paused trying not to cry. “He stepped forward. I was so relieved. It was unbelievable.”

Hartman still marvels at his own story of survival thanks to organ donation. He said there was no shortage of family and friends who went through the testing process.

“I mean, that’s why you do something like this. We’ve got Father’s Day around the corner,” said Kuzmins. 

Since surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, both Hartman and Kuzmins continue to be in good health.

“If I were to have a call of action, I think it would be there is a law in Ohio that if you work for the state government, you actually get paid leave if you are a living donor,” said Kuzmins. “It would be really awesome if more private employers and also maybe even regional or county governments would go to a policy. You can really save lives, keep families together, see generations thrive.”

In 2022, all living donor surgeries for liver transplants were done laparoscopically.

A spokesperson for the Cleveland Clinic said it is one of the few hospitals in the world offering minimally invasive surgery for the living donor. The two thank their care team at the Cleveland Clinic for their smooth recovery.

Both men encourage more people to consider giving the priceless donation of life.

“It was a gift of life,” said Hartman. “I wouldn’t be sitting here if he hadn’t come forward. I know that I would have been gone.”

According to Donate Life, more than 100,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplant in U.S. To learn more about how to donate life by becoming a living donor, visit here.