Monday, August 02, 2010

The most selfless act: He gave a kidney to a complete stranger as part of a 'transplant chain'!

By Cedar Schimke
Collegiate Volunteer & Archon
Iota Zeta - University of Minnesota at Duluth

Walking down State Street in Madison, host city for the Transplant Games, I encountered a man with a living-donor story of national proportions. Literally.

He was part of one of the nation's largest-ever "transplant chains." Read a medical article about the phenomenon and a related article in Glamour magazine here.

Here's what happened: This past December, 13 once-healthy Americans were in dire need of a kidney transplant. They had family members or loved ones who were not compatible with them, but were willing to donate to other patients. Upon determining which donors and future recipients were compatible, the group still needed three donors to complete the chain. Bill altruistically donated one of his healthy kidneys to a complete stranger so the transplants could take place.

I wanted to know more! Bill told me when people suffer kidney failure, their lives become consumed by dialysis. Family relationships and work requirements are often replaced by hospital visits and a bittersweet endearment toward life-sustaining dialysis centers.

Each of the donors received just three small incisions. In a marathon procedure, the healthy kidneys were drained of fluids and removed through a two-inch hole in the abdominal cavity. They were then transplanted into the people who needed them. Imagine that: 13 kidneys, 26 separate operations, 13 lives saved.

One month of recovery and no physical ailments later, Bill gave me a gift: He helped me to realize what it's like to have no barriers between one another - what it's like to give something of yourself that makes the ultimate human connection.

The Transplant Games are brimming with stories like these - of genuine interactions between complete strangers. Someone like Bill shows us all the potential for true love - and that, even if we do not know one another, we are not so different, you and I.

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