"I was very fulfilled," says Cojo. "I just worked 24/7. Flew all around the world. I was successful. I had the world by a string. I had made my dream come true."
But during a routine physical, he received chilling news. His blood pressure, at 200 over 100, was off the charts. Steven was stunned to learn he had polycystic kidney disease and was in the final stages of kidney failure.
Cojo "was completely shattered" when his doctor told him he was in the final stages of kidney failure. "Like the ultimate kick in the stomach. Like I lost my breath. And then I didn't want to tell anybody."
"The doctor was so blunt," Cojo says. "[There was] no foreplay…and he said, 'Your only options are dialysis, which is horrible and draining and you won't be able to work…or transplant."
Cojo was told he had about a six-month window before his kidneys would stop functioning. "I went to a specialist and he said, 'What I recommend to you from my heart is find a donor. Go to friends and family because to go on a list…' And I said 'Can I get on a list? Is there any special treatment?' I went there. I mean, it was my survival. I was, like, 'Here's the keys to a nice Range Rover. What can I do? Can I give your wife a free makeover? Can I pay you in clothes?'"
"I sat her down and said 'I have some really bad news,'" Cojo remembers. "The first thing, within 4.3 seconds, she said, 'I would give you a kidney in a second.' And she also said the most beautiful thing I could ever hear in my life: 'We'll get through this.' And when I heard that, I knew I was going to be okay. Honestly, I knew that I had support. She helped me through every big decision—telling my parents, telling work. She was my strength; she was my absolute rock."
Just days after his surgery, in which doctors placed Abby's kidney into his body, Cojo recovered so well that he was released from the hospital.
He wore a mask because he was very susceptible to infections and germs. Cojo's doctors prescribed a strict regimen of medicines. Many were anti-rejection pills, while others were antibacterial. There were also pills to regulate calcium levels and blood pressure. "This new kidney, even though it is the ultimate gift of life, is a shock to my system and we are trying to make it cohabitate with my system," Cojo said. So even the smallest victories were cause for celebration. "It's a big deal that Leonardo DiCaprio won a Golden Globe. The fact that I passed gas made five nurses applaud with joy," Cojo joked.
"How did you feel after you had done it?" Oprah asks Abby. "Did you feel your friend was worth it?"
"I would do it again in a heartbeat," Abby says.
As a token of his gratitude, Cojo gave Abby a beautiful heart-shaped diamond ring. "I think the only way to thank her," Cojo says, "is to give her my heart and tell her she'll always be in my heart. We have this incredible connection. She's my life."
Oprah: Is that true?
Cojo: It is absolutely true. … It speaks of the competitiveness and how cutthroat the business is. I want all these people to know what goes on behind the scenes. I mean, one minute I was getting flowers from the whole Today show staff. I was part of the family. They were very good to me—I can't deny that. … I was there four-and-a-half years. And they really made me feel like part of the family like Katie and Matt and Al and Ann—I really bonded with them. So I can't take that away. Because there have been a lot of ugly headlines and that hasn't been in there—the love. I love them now. I still love them. But one minute I get flowers from them saying 'Get better. We can't wait to get you back on the air.' The next minute I was forthcoming and I said, 'I'm doing [an interview with] you guys—we'll do a small thing—but I [also] really want to go on Oprah. I'm so passionate about this cause."
Cojo says that he was initially devastated to lose his job. "It was pain, pain, pain, feeling sorry for myself," he says, "and then one day it clicks. And I'm like, 'I just had a kidney transplant. Bring it on! I can survive anything.'"
Cojo says that he's also been cured of "nothing-is-good-enough disease." He says his materialism was spiraling out of control—first it was a flashy sports car, then a house in the Hollywood Hills. The vicious cycle of never being satisfied, he says, came to a halt with his diagnosis.
"I paint myself as the most shallow, vapid person alive," Cojo says. "And you know what? That makes me feel safe. I can put that out there and I can be this big clown, and for some reason that's my protection. But, Oprah and everybody, the walls have come down!"
In the past, Cojo has said some pretty harsh things about celebrities on the red carpet, but he says that his experience has made him more reflective. Even though his critiques are all in good fun, he says that he'll no longer make fun of age or weight. "It's too low," he admits. "And I absolutely realized that it is beneath me, absolutely positively."
More information on organ donation.
Matt: I heard the pop and then I could smell the smoke coming from the gun, but I didn't feel anything. It took a while…until I could actually feel the bullet burning in my back. I knew I had to fight to live—but I also remember thinking that I didn't know too many people who can make it [being shot] point blank in the chest, and I accepted the fact that I potentially was not going to make it through this.
Oprah: Many people would observe and call 911 and other people would shout for somebody else to come and help, but you just dove into, really, the line of fire.
Matt: It was a split second decision I made…To have something like that happen in front of my shop and nobody doing anything about it—that's not happening on my watch. I saw what was going on and I ran out there and I helped her out.
"What a blessing it is to have been in your line of sight when I was in urgent need of help. Before you came into my life, I only had two sons, but now I have three. You are part of my family now and you will always be in our hearts. I only hope that if you ever find yourself in trouble, your guardian angel will come to your aid just as you came to mine. Thank you for changing my life with your selfless act of courage."
The four young men who attacked Brynda and Matt were arrested. Three of them pleaded guilty to robbery and were given probation. The alleged shooter has been charged with attempted first-degree murder.
For his heroism, Matt was awarded the Governor of Colorado's Medal of Valor.
Matt was just 17. He was arrested and taken into custody. He says it was the look in his mother's eyes at the police station that turned his life around. "I put her through so much," Matt says. "She was disappointed in me, and I figured out I will never put her through that again. That day—that was the last time I got into any type of trouble."
He not only stayed out of trouble, since then, Matt has opened his own successful business where after-hours he runs a boxing program for disadvantaged kids. "From 8 to 5 p.m. it's office space but from 6 to 8 it's a full blown gym in the basement," Matt says. "I donate the space and the coach donates all his time. This gives kids a sanctuary—a place to go where they learn the payoff of working hard."