The 5 Most Heartwarming Stories of Kidney Donation

By Jane Bianchi The 5 Most Heartwarming Stories of Kidney DonationThe 5 Most Heartwarming Stories of Kidney Donation

Surprising Sacrifices

No one ever thinks they'll go under the knife for another person's sake. But when these five women encountered a life-or-death request, their decision-to donate a kidney-was a no-brainer. This incredibly selfless act is no walk in the park-they all underwent major surgery and months of recovery-but they said it was worth it. Read on for their touching stories and find out the unexpected rewards they reaped from keeping someone else alive. Photo by Michelle Largoza.

"I donated to my dad."

Cara Reynoso, 40, Bloomfield, NJ

"When my dad let a minor kidney problem develop into end-stage chronic kidney disease earlier this year, I was shocked. He's an internal medicine doctor and should have known how not to get sick! To keep him off dialysis for life, my two younger sisters and I knew that one of us needed to give him a kidney. Since Kathy has young children and Michelle has no kids, I said I'd do it; if anything were to happen to me, my son Justin is 18 and grown. Plus, I'm a Capricorn and I'm competitive! My dad is a quiet, non-affectionate guy, so we didn't have a heart-to-heart before or after the November 2013 procedure, but I could see in his face that he was grateful. I was in a ton of pain for two weeks-every time I moved, I felt like my organs were being pulled from my body. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. I like to think this makes up for the hard time I gave my dad in high school. Michelle bought me a kidney-shaped necklace from Tiffany's as a thank-you gift, and my mom bought me a purse; I think my sisters were a little jealous."

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"I donated to my sister."

Julie Matsumoto, 57, Los Angeles

"My younger sister Nancy got lupus in 1986. She was in and out of the hospital for years, and eventually had kidney failure. In 2005, her doctor recommended a kidney transplant, so my brother and I took a blood test and found out that we were both matches. Jon was hesitant to donate because the surgery comes with potential complications-plus,recovery can be painful and last months. But I talked to two friends of friends who had donated kidneys and they had good experiences, so I felt comfortable. The night before the surgery, though, Nancy and I went to dinner, and Nancy's only child, who was about 9 at the time, looked nervous. He had seen his mom suffer his whole life, and I wanted so badly for the surgery to go well so Nancy could watch him grow up. When I woke up from the procedure and found out that it was a success, I was so happy. Nancy said to me, 'You completely changed my life.' Over the past seven years, she's bought me a thank-you present on every 'kidney anniversary,' from a smoked-salmon-and-cheese gift basket to a facial. Lots of people need kidneys, so I hope my story might motivate others to donate. Nancy became inspired this year to volunteer with The GOLD (Gift of Living Donation), a new nonprofit organization that raises awareness about kidney donation."

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"I donated to a coworker."

Patty Kitchen, 55, Rockport, ME

"In 2003, I was interviewing a colleague, Susan, for our company newsletter, and she told me a story that broke my heart. She needed a kidney donation and her best friend was a match, but at the last minute, her friend couldn't donate because she developed a tiny kidney stone. I told her that my blood type was O-, the universal donor type, and she shared information about kidney donation with me. I thought about it overnight and decided that I would go through the testing process and put it in God's hands-if I turned out to be a match, then it was meant to be. As it turned out, I was a match! Plus, our company was willing to cover all the expenses. Susie was euphoric and gave me a big hug. Leading up to the surgery, I listened to books on tape by Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra and practiced yoga to keep calm. After the surgery, Susie said, 'I feel so blessed.' She had this twinkle in her eye; I think that was me inside her. I'm girly, and she never was, but after the surgery, she started polishing her nails and doing her hair when I'd come visit. I'd joke, 'That's my DNA, girlfriend.' Susie gave me a beautiful frame with a poem inside it called 'The Gift' and sends me a card on every kidney anniversary. Her uncle even sends me raspberries from his patch sometimes. I left our company in 2005 to move more than an hour away, but next year is the 10-year anniversary of the kidney donation, and I'd like to get together with Susie to celebrate."

"I donated to an old classmate."

Latrice Sharpe, 41, Smyrna, TN

"I first met Melanie Moore in third grade. She was friendly and outgoing, and I was a quiet, nerdy type, so we never became close, but we were acquaintances. Twenty years after high school, we reconnected on Facebook. This past September, I saw one of her posts asking for a kidney donor. It was such a coincidence because I had happened to see a kidney donation article randomly in my Facebook newsfeed a couple of years earlier, and felt it was a message from God. I IMed Melanie immediately, saying, 'You'll probably think I'm crazy, but my purpose in life is to give somebody a kidney. Now I think that somebody is you.' When I turned out to be a match, she started crying. We met up in person at a restaurant and hugged. The day I underwent surgery in November 2013 my body was shaking with nervous energy, but everything went well. After the procedure, we visited each other a couple of times a day in the hospital and Melanie called me an angel. She wrote me the most precious, heartfelt card that oozed appreciation. And I made her a kidney-shaped pillow-she calls it Rosie and says it's provided a lot of comfort. We plan on getting together and staying close after we've recovered more-she lives just 30 minutes away."

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"I donated to a stranger-and then married him."

Chelsea Froelich, 26, Danville, IN

"In September 2009, a family friend invited me to a fundraiser and introduced me to her friend Kyle, who needed a kidney. He was cute, and we bonded immediately because he liked my 2010 Camaro. In talking,we found out that we had the same blood type and I said, 'I'm going to give you a kidney.' My father had passed away from cancer in 2005 because he couldn't get a bone marrow transplant fast enough. Nobody in our family was a match, and I remember how hopeless we all felt. When I found out I was a match for Kyle, I drove to his house to tell him in person. He was speechless. I went through more tests, and Kyle went to every appointment with me. We scheduled the surgery for April Fool's Day in 2010 because we're goofy. The day before surgery, my face was green and my palms were sweaty-I thought I was going to pass out. Afterward, Kyle was wheeled to me and said, 'I'll owe you forever.' We officially started dating soon after, and in October 2013, we tied the knot. Kyle is an amazing stepdad to my 6-year-old daughter from a prior relationship and we have a son together. We named the kidney 'Sparky' and have a party every April Fool's Day called Sparkypalooza to celebrate."

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