Kidney donors, recipients meet for first time: 'We're connected!'

FOX 32 NEWS - It’s a program that lets kidney donors who can't give to their friends and loved ones, donate to someone they've never met.

On Friday, the recipients got to meet the person who helped save their life.

“Like I said, I would do it again. I'm just happy to have helped,” said kidney donor Lorretta Jenkins.

Jenkins knows how difficult it is to live in need of a kidney. Her husband Lee needed one to survive, but when she offered to donate hers, it wasn't a match. That didn't stop her though. Last month, Lorretta volunteered to donate a kidney anyway, and today, she met the recipient, Steven Boone.

“We're connected!” Boone said.

Jenkins and Boone were one of four couples who met reporters today, all participants in Northwestern memorial Hospital's Paired Kidney Exchange Program. Patients who show up with a willing donor -- a relative or a friend -- often learn the donor isn't compatible. In the past, that meant the patient would have live on dialysis for five years or so, waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor. Under the kidney swap program, the partner can agree to make the donation anyway, making more kidneys available.

“Through our kidney pair donation program, we can find these matches, and allow the transplants to happen much sooner, and from a living donor which tends to be more successful,” said Dr. John Friedewald.

Leo Tripolitakis couldn't donate to his wife Patty. But today he learned Lorretta's husband Lee, who couldn't get her kidney, got his.

The donors and recipients who met for the first time all agree that they now feel like they've got new members in their families.

“I just feel like I'm looking at a part of me standing next to me. And I just found out that she doesn't live that far from me, which is really awesome, now i get to visit my kidney!” said kidney donor Donna Spans.

Doctors say you don't have to come in with potential recipient in order to contribute a kidney. They’re always looking for healthy people who are willing to donate, and if you want, you can remain anonymous.

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