Their story began with a knock at the door and a gift of bottled water.
It has become about so much more — a 65-year-old Afghan man and a 29-year-old Canadian man sharing meals, religion, culture, respect and now, almost unbelievably, a kidney.
On an August day in 2012, Ghulam Akbar Momand and 18 of his family members moved into a Rebecca Street highrise, only to find their three units without water or electricity due to a building emergency.
It was not an ideal welcome to Canada for the Afghan family, who recently arrived in Hamilton via Pakistan.
That same day, neighbour Andy Clutton made his way through the 16-storey building along with a group of other residents, distributing water bottles to help those who couldn’t make it out of their units.
Going door-to-door, Clutton met Momand — who he calls “Dr. Akbar” — along with the rest of his family living in the building, which included nine children.
It was the start of a beautiful friendship between the two men born more than three decades apart in different countries with different skin colours.
“From that day, we make our friendship,” Momand said about Clutton. “A friend who gives … half of life to you — I find this friend.”
The story of how the two men went from “friends to donors” grew out of their shared medical experience, explains Clutton, who is recovering well after donating one of his kidneys to Momand three weeks ago.
Momand, who was chief and served as doctor in his village of Mangwal, Afghanistan, would routinely perform procedures like circumcisions and pull teeth.
Clutton, a father of three, works as a palliative-care nurse in Grimsby.
“Even though (Momand’s) English was very poor then, there were many terms in Latin through medical terminology that we could tell stories about, laugh about and learn from each other on,” Clutton said.
Clutton’s shift work also meant the two could have tea often. Through these meetings, Clutton learned of Momand’s medical conditions, including slowly deteriorating kidneys that led to him being on dialysis for more than three years.
In 2015, the father of 10 had a heart operation. The stress of the surgery caused his kidney function to rapidly decrease.
As Momand’s health continued to decline, the family looked into whether one of his children could be a living kidney donor, but none were eligible because both Momand and his wife have diabetes, said Clutton.
So, the family approached Clutton and another friend in the building, Varun Rana, for help explaining their situation to other Canadians.
Not knowing what being a kidney donor involved, Rana and Clutton began exploring basic questions, such as eligibility and the length of the process.
“Initially, just to find out the facts, but kind of setting our hearts to walking through this door until the door was closed,” Clutton said.
Several years ago, Clutton, his wife Shannon and a group of their friends — including Rana and his wife Amelia — moved into the Beasley neighbourhood purposefully to serve immigrants and refugees.
“Varun and I were part of a team that would try to use our spare time to help the neighbourhood,” he said.
They are part of a small movement called MoveIn, in which Christians move into low-income, high-density communities with large newcomer populations to follow Jesus’ example.
“We’ve always explained ourselves in this neighbourhood as trying to imitate the life of Jesus in service to others,” said Clutton, who grew up in the Philippines and went to high school in Toronto.