FAIRFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — Anthony Cernera’s life revolves around helping others.
So much so that the Fairfield resident is also the Director of Philanthropy for St. Vincent’s Medical Center and Hartford HealthCare.
Outside of work, his philanthropic heart beats on, and in the spirit of giving, he is giving the ultimate gift this holiday season: Others the chance to live.
Cernera is a semi-professional skydiver, so he knows how to live life to the fullest and what it means when you can’t.
“There are two people who are walking around and healthy today who wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the medical professionals and you know, my role in that,” said Cernera of his role as a living altruistic organ donor.
“It’s an interesting experience to care about someone who I don’t even know.”
His journey began in 2016, when he selflessly donated one of his kidneys to a then stranger.
“He was literally on his death bed. He had last rites read to him. I met Lance about three years after donating my kidney to him. Hearing his story and getting to understand what an impact that made on him really wanted to make me see if I could help somebody else.”
His next donation was in 2017 when he gave bone marrow stem cells to Jill, a grandmother living in southern California, who had leukemia.
“It was really heartwarming. After a year, the stem cell transplant facility connected us and it’s really just awesome to have this stranger on the other side of the country to hear they had a one-year birthday party to celebrate the transplant and that was the beginning in the turn of her health.”
Today, Jill is cancer free and calls Cernera her hero.
“Helping somebody else gives me hope and them.”
Two people, once complete strangers, each given a second chance at life.
“And hopefully there will be a third going into the holiday season,” said Cernera.
On Dec. 7, Cernera underwent another surgery, creating a true holiday miracle.
“There’s a man or a woman…that will be receiving a section of my liver.”
It’s the giving he loves and feels he’s supposed to do.
“I wake up every morning and I ask myself, ‘What can I do to be a service of somebody today?’”
He is currently recovering in Pittsburgh following his liver transplant surgery.
He also shared that this will be his last living donation.