Changing Lives Through Donating Kidneys to Strangers

These people donated a kidney to save a loved one in the longest inter-hospital kidney donation chain.
8:35 | 04/15/15

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Transcript for Changing Lives Through Donating Kidneys to Strangers
We're about to take you inside the operating room to witness history in the making. A chain of complete strangers making incredible sacrifices to give the gift of life. Byron Pitts has the story. Here's the kidney. What you are witnessing is months in the making. Because this kidney is only one part of a transpl chain that is so far 30 lengths long. She's here for a kidney transplant. Today will require eight surgeons. And a team of transports. It's only viable for a very short period of time. To five different hospitals in four different states. Okay, kidney, good-bye. To break the record in the nation's longest multi-hospital kidney transplant chain. What was started three months ago all boils down to this one day. The final two recipients of the chain will each be given a new lease on life. It's very important to do this as soon as possible. Mitzi neyens, 77 years young, has been waiting one year for a kidney. She and her husband have been married for 53 years. For most of it, her kidney disease was manageable. She was doing fine up until about a year ago. So the university of Wisconsin hospital enrolled her in the national kidney registry's paired exchange program. Say you need a kidney but your friends and loved ones aren't good matches, one of them can agree to donate on your behalf to someone else who they do match with. In a complicated chain of potential donors and recipients. But if a donor backs out or a recipient gets sick, the entire chain collapses like dominos. At the end of this day, 34 kidneys will have been swapped between the hospitals over a course of six months. Today, mit Citi hopes to be the final link in the chain. This person's getting my kidney. If they have an affinity toward crystal light, that kidney is working great. He's donating on behalf of his wife. I'm ready to do that. The news that I was going to be able to be transplanted this month, I was flabbergasted. In order for it to happen, everything needs to go according to plan with the other five surgeries taking place today. First up, Baltimore, Maryland. She's donating a kidney on behalf of her brother Charles. My kidney is supposed to go to Pittsburgh. They're going to wake up blooding purple. It's driven 250 miles to Pittsburgh. It's going to Gary Watson. In exchange, his daughter is donating her kidney. Christine is wheeled off into the or. About three hours later, her kidney is ready to be sent on its way. Package is secure. And from there, it will fly 368 miles on a private plane to New Jersey. A courier picks it up. We're on our way to Cornell hospital. The kidney is given to the person waiting for it in new York. The donor kidney from New York will head to Philadelphia where Michelle and Matt are heading to the hospital to get ready for their surgeries. No cold, I'm glad that he's smiling and happy. Ready to get in there and see Michelle with her new kidney. And we need to make a hole big enough to get the kidney out. Michelle/ fli learns her kidney is in transport. He spoke with the hospital in n5bfcrk. They said the kidney great. Matt's kidney is successfully taken out. The kidney is on its way to the airport. It goes to Chicago's o'hare airport and will be driven 133 miles to Madison, Wisconsin. So your kidney is en route. Buaéf with kidney transport, anything can happen. No one knows that better than the man behind today's big chain. When you're organizing a swap, you need to have a lot of different information at hand immediately. He's also got a kidney story of his own. His daughter needed one when she was ten. Both my wife and I were incompatible. It was a devastating blow.ó(4zñ when you see your child on dialyfy and you're helpless, it creates ac that's hard to imagine. Pd- frustration that drove him to create the national kidney registry's paired exchange program. I learned everything I could about kidney transplant and paired exchange. It all starts with one generous person with no vested interest. That level of generosity is hard to describe with words. We've had 250 good samaritan donors come through and start chains and gotten over 1,300 people transplanted. Kathie hart is the good samaritan at the start of what could be this record-breaking chain. Helping a neighbor cut their grass is one thing. But donating a kidney to a stranger? I think the fact it was to a stranger is one of the parts that people have a really hard time grasping. It actually even makes it easier. I didn't have any judgment attached to who gets it or who's deserving. I have an opportunity to give and why wouldn't I? It's amazing how many people are benefiting from that one person's donation. Back in Philadelphia, Michelle gets her new kidney. Most exciting part of the whole thing. Look at the color. You see it? This is beautiful. Really nice. Just out of surgery himself, Matt is overcome when he learns his wife Michelle's surgery was a success. I got everything I wanted today. Best gift you could have gotten? He's got a message for Mitzi in Wisconsin waiting for his kidney. I'm hoping you're feeling as blessed as I do right now. So I did receive an update. The kidney was picked up by the on ground transport person. We're right on time. Mitzi gets prepared for surgery. Getting emotional thinking about the journey you've been on? I think yesterday it really sank in that I was getting this kidney. I honestly didn't think I'd ever qualify. Her new kidney arrives. 6:18. Game time. Mitzi's husband waits anxiously. About an hour in, he gets an update. I wanted to let you know that the kidney is in. Oh, my gosh. That is amazing. Immediately turned pink. Looks good. All finished? All finished. Everything went very well. Good, I'm so happy to hear that. No surprises. Kidney's getting good blood flow. So she's going to outlive me? 68 lives have been changed in what the surgeons have called a chain of love. Now the longest multi-hospital kidney chain in U.S. History. It's driven by hearts and minds of people. People that want to do it. If there was no love in this, it wouldn't happen. I'm Byron Pitts in Madison, Wisconsin.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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