February 22, 2018 08:40 PM
(ABC 6 News)-- There’s a saying that goes: you know who your friends are when you're in need. Sometimes, a stranger can be the friend you didn't even know you had. A unique group of people is able to celebrate living because of strangers.
Wednesday night, eight individuals were all in the same room together for the first time, but they share a link that goes well beyond the room.
The gathering really began one year ago.
In March of 2017, ABC 6 sat down with John Goodman of Byron whose daughter was in desperate need of a kidney. Like any parent would, he wanted to help.
John wasn't able to donate his kidney to his daughter Martina. Instead, he donated one of his kidneys to a stranger through a program called, the Kidney Paired Donation. By doing that, Martina received a kidney.
"They find a match for my kidney to go somewhere and then they find a match for hers. She wouldn't have got a kidney if I wouldn't have donated," said John.
"I call it the domino effect because it's like one person donates and then it just keeps going. If one person doesn't do it the whole chain just breaks," said Martina.
Nearly one year after John and Martina had surgery, they shared a kidney transplant anniversary with others in their paired exchange.
The four recipients all with different conditions are alive because of four donors.
"It's just great to be alive," said kidney recipient, Pete Kuhlmann
"I was on dialysis for almost three years," said another recipient, Beverly Bombardo.
For Pete, his best friend Louie Blanck did not match as his donor, so he donated to someone else.
"Louie called me between Christmas and New Year’s and he told me he had a Christmas present for me," smiled Pete.
"Told him he could put a box under his Christmas tree that I was passed to be a donor. I think he was pretty happy," laughed Louie.
For Tami Heldt, her daughter Amanda was also in need of a kidney. When Tami joined the program, her kidney was paired with Martina's.
One thing all these donors have in common, "It was honestly one of the easiest decisions I could've ever made," said kidney donor, Steve Duenow.
Updated: February 22, 2018 08:40 PM
Created: February 22, 2018 05:40 PM
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