Like many Boston sports fans, Paul Basken was thinking it might be nice to be there, in person, for the Bruins’ march to the Stanley Cup finals.
Basken grew up in Stoneham, graduated from UMass Amherst, and, because he longed for a career with long hours and short money, went into journalism. He covers higher education, based in Washington.
From the nation’s capital, he was wondering: How do I get to a Bruins playoff game?
When the Bruins drew the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference finals, he thought it would be easier to score a ticket in Raleigh than Boston. Then he thought of his pal, Brittany Marino, who lives near Raleigh.
He went on her Facebook page and, wouldn’t you know it, there was a picture of Brittany riding on the Zamboni as it circled PNC Arena in Raleigh, a privilege she won at a party.
Basken sent her an e-mail about the upcoming playoffs. She invited him down, saying her company had seats. Basken didn’t think twice. After all, Brittany Marino had given him a kidney two years ago, so what’s a couple of Bruins tickets?
They were perfect strangers, and a perfect donor match.
At 55, Paul Basken was slowly dying. The polycystic kidney disease that had killed his sister was killing him.
Brittany Marino, then 27, was working at a high school in North Carolina when she learned that a student she met while pursuing her master’s needed a kidney. She agreed to be the donor.
She went through the testing, but it turned out she wasn’t a match for her friend. Still, having made the commitment once, she was determined to donate one of her kidneys.
“I had already mentally gone there,” she explained. “I wanted to help someone.”
She found Paul Basken on matchingdonors.com, a website founded by a man from Canton named Paul Dooley and his doctor.
“I just searched by blood type,” she said, “and I found Paul 2.”
Brittany was, at the time, engaged to Paul 1, aka Paul Marino.
Now, you would think a guy might be a little apprehensive if, on the eve of their wedding, his fiance announced she was going to donate one of her kidneys to a total stranger. But Paul Marino was nothing but supportive.
“I already knew he was the one,” Brittany said of Paul 1, “but the way he reacted let me know I had the right guy.”
Their marriage almost wrecked the whole thing, though. They honeymooned in the Dominican Republic, and doctors were worried she might have contracted the Zika virus from mosquitoes. The doctors were inclined to wait. Brittany and Paul 2 weren’t.
The surgery at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore went swimmingly. Soon after, Paul 2 was healthy, and Paul 1 and Brittany had a baby on the way.
So, fast forward to Tuesday, and Paul Basken and Brittany Marino were at PNC Arena together, in her company’s corporate box. Somehow, she managed to win the company raffle that scored them tickets and various perks.
At the end of the first intermission, they got to greet the Hurricane players before the second period. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask had stymied the Hurricanes in the first period in an otherworldly performance. Paul Basken resisted the urge to chant “Tuukka! Tuukka!” in “Toga! Toga!” “Animal House” fashion. He didn’t want to embarrass Brittany, so he just offered polite, completely disingenuous encouragement to the doomed ’Canes.
The Broons won, putting the ’Canes on the brink of being swept.
Basken slept over at the Marinos’. Before taking the train back to Washington, he got to spend time with Sophia, Brittany’s 1-year-old daughter.
Brittany got a kick out of watching two people who both carry a part of her bond.
“It is,” she said, “very humbling.”
So is what the Bruins have done to the Hurricanes. But, then, that’s just a game. This is life.Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.