In August, Bobby Sulek, of Warren, donated one of his own kidneys to aid his son, Michael Sulek, of Clinton Township. The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help defray the financial burden of the surgery and recovery.

In August, Bobby Sulek, of Warren, donated one of his own kidneys to aid his son, Michael Sulek, of Clinton Township. The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help defray the financial burden of the surgery and recovery.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Kidney passes from father to son

Donations sought to assist local family after dad donates kidney to adult child

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published October 25, 2019

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WARREN — Those who grew up with and worked with Bobby Sulek for decades thought they knew what kind of a guy he was. Those feelings were affirmed and then some when he unselfishly stepped up to literally offer a piece of himself to save his ailing son.

It’s something any parent might do. It’s another thing to actually do it.  

Michael Sulek was born with an obstructed ureter. The condition, which restricted the flow of urine from the kidney to the bladder, left him with chronic issues that affected his health throughout his life.

He’s 31 now and feeling better every day, weeks after transplant surgery in August.

“It goes back to when he was born,” said Bobby, 63, of Warren. “In 2018, they removed both of his kidneys, which were only working at like 5 percent of their capacity. He went on the donor list. They wanted to find a younger kidney, with his age being 31.”

Michael, of Clinton Township, was doing in-home dialysis every day and facing an extended wait on the donor list for a suitable match when Bobby moved to offer one of his own kidneys as an alternative.

“I just said to the doctor, if we’re a match, then check me out,” Bobby said.

Given his health issues, Michael said he always knew he might someday need a kidney transplant and that his dad had always said he’d be there for him if that time came.

“We knew that was a possibility down the line. The time came and he was able to step up and do that for me,” Michael said. “It’s one thing to say you’re going to do it. It’s a completely different thing, actually going through the process of doing it.”

Wesley Pikula said he’s known Bobby since 1970. They went to grade school together and applied for a job on the same day at the original Buddy’s Pizza location at Six Mile Road and Conant Street in Detroit.

Bobby worked for Buddy’s in various capacities for 32 years before leaving the company 13 years ago. He was the longtime manager at the Warren location on Old 13 Mile Road at Van Dyke Avenue.

“You spend time with people and you hope that they’re the kind of people you think they are, and when they are, it makes makes you feel good,” said Pikula, now the chief brand officer for Buddy’s Pizza. “I think Bobby is the kind of person who would do anything for anybody. He’s a dear friend.

“Bobby has always been generous with his time, with people. The hospital told him that Michael would be on a waiting list. He just couldn’t see his son on a long waiting list, at his age when he just needs to be having fun and enjoying the world right now. He convinced the doctors, to some extent, that his kidney was better than the alternative on the waiting list,” Pikula said. “He not only volunteered. He advocated.”

The families, with the exception of Michael who was still recovering from surgery, recently celebrated the occasion over dinner at a restaurant in Troy. When the management learned what they were celebrating, the restaurant picked up the tab.

“Bobby didn’t take the easy route. He advocated for this probably more than the hospital would have. They would have probably wanted to do the waiting game. He’s been very humble about it,” Pikula said.

Bobby added, “He’s my kid. It’s that simple. It’s a no-brainer.”

Michael said he’s been recovering “slowly but surely,” and getting used to his “new normal.”

“I’m lucky. I don’t dispute that,” Michael said. “You don’t even realize how lousy you feel after a while. You just kind of get used to feeling that way. All of a sudden, I wake up after surgery, after the pain goes away, that’s when you realize it was worth it.

“I’m feeling just a lot better. It’s actually working to make me feel reasonably normal again,” Michael said.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help defray the financial burden of the surgery and recovery. Contributions can be made at gofundme.com/f/My-Brother-Michaels-Kidney-Trans plant.

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