Paired Donation Helps Organ Transplants

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Right now in America, 73,000 people need kidney transplants. Every couple of hours one of them dies.

Some people needing kidney transplants have someone who loves them enough to donate one of theirs. But even though they are willing to undergo the risky surgery, they're turned down, because their kidney is incompatible with their intended recipient. Now, however, those incompatible donor-recipient pairs have new hope.

Brenda Chapa's successful kidney transplant will likely add another ten to 15 years to her life. Her donor, Carey Barrett, a total stranger, risked his life in order to give life to Chapa.

"He's not a stranger any more," she said. "He's definitely going to be my best friend."

Chapa's family says it's a miracle. But instead of paying back the donor, they'll pay it forward by donating a kidney to someone they don't even know.

Program Revolutionizing Transplants

Developed by Dr. Michael Rees, an Ohio kidney surgeon, the Alliance for Paired Donation program is revolutionizing organ transplants.

"My hope is that we will get 3,000 kidney transplants a year someday," Dr. Rees said.

Here's how the program works. You would like to donate a kidney to a loved one, but are incompatible. The program will match your loved one with someone who is compatible, provided you donate your kidney to someone else. This chain reaction of giving was set into motion by a man who donated his kidney, but wanted nothing in return."

A Link in the Chain

Matt Jones is a Michigan father of five.

"I just thought I've got two, I only need the one," he said. "If somebody else can have it and live a better life, it's a success."

Jones gave his kidney to Barb Bennell, whose husband Ron wanted to donate his kidney to his wife, but was incompatible. Instead, he was matched with Angie, whose mother Lori wanted to give to her daughter, but didn't match. So she gave to Cecelia, and the chain goes on. These donors, recipients and their families, celebrated their shared generosity at a banquet.

"My hope, a year from now we have another reunion," said Ron Bunnell, kidney donor. "We have more chains, and not a single one of them is broken."

"I feel fantastic," said Angela Heckman. "He gave me new life."

"He gave me my daughter back for a long time to come," said Laurie Salvo, Heckman's mother.

Thanks to the so-called domino transplants, this group of people considers each other family forever.

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Lorie Johnson

Lorie Johnson

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