We turn now to a medical race against the clock. A string of strangers making sacrifices to give the gift of life. As it turns out, what they're doing could give hope to countless others in need. It's... See More
We turn now to a medical race against the clock. A string of strangers making sacrifices to give the gift of life. As it turns out, what they're doing could give hope to countless others in need. It's 6:00 A.M. Are you doing okay? These patients are strangers, but they're about to save each other's lives. I'm not worried about me, I'm worried about my baby. If all goes well, they'll be forever linked in about what's to become the long els living donor kidney transplant, 21 kidneys. We have over seven transplants planned this week. She's both transplant surgeon and matchmaker at the university of Alabama Birmingham medical center. She's helping expand the pool of potential kidney donors by creating chains of living donors. It works like this. A recipient needs someone, a spouse, parent, friend, willing to donate kidney to a stranger so that they can receive a kidney from a stranger in return. The magic happens right here. By Dr. Lock's side is nurse Katie Stegner who looks for donors and recipients. I go through this every day and it keeps coming up no matches. What I have to do is make lists for myself. Reporter: This is base chi your hey stack and you're looking for the needle in there. Yeah. Reporter: Her cramped office tell the story you difficult it is to find a workable match. What drives you? This. Just meeting the patients and them being so -- I'm getting emotional -- being so happy. Reporter: Katie is a hard core O.R. Nurse, but getting to know these patients has softened her. In my old job, I was involved solely in the O.R. Now they're really people. Reporter: People like 18-year-old high school student Caitlin. It's going to go diagonal right about here. Reporter: A year ago, Caitlin, a rising high school senior and black belt in karate, fell seriously ill and had few options. Either to stay on dieial sils for the rest of my life or to get the transplant. Reporter: She joined the rank <suffixs of the more than 100,000 Americans in desperate need of a transplant. For many, the wait for a deceased donor kidney could last from eight to ten years. She has to hook up to a dialysis machine every night, every night of her life. Reporter: Earl was a match for his daughter, but by joining the chain, Caitlin will get a much younger kidney from a stranger. And her dad, earl, will donate one of his in Caitlin's honor. I prayed to god that he would send an answer and he has. How can I refuse someone else? Reporter: The day before surgery, who that someone is remains a mystery. It's very important that we keep everything completely anonymous going in, but usually the day after when people are up for it, we usually meet up. Reporter: In fact, all along this hospital floor, others are curious too. Like this donor, pastor Derek lambert. I don't know if this is perhaps a young mother who is afraid of leaving her kids or a young man who is unable to provide for the needles of his family. Reporter: He's donating one of his two healthy kidney so a friend and a deacon at his church can get one of his own. Father, we entrust this to you. Aimen. Reporter: And just next door, though neither of them knows it, is a wife and mother of two. Alison Nelson is about to receive the pastor's gift of life. It's the most unselfish thing anyone can do. Reporter: Her cousin stepped forward and volunteered to donate on her behalf. People keep telling me how brave I am. I don't think I'm brave at all. I think that everybody could do this if they had the person that -- if the right person needed it. Reporter: Kourtney may be modest, but her mom is overwhelmed. I cannot believe I've got such a good, loving daughter. Roim and what they don't know is cousin Kourtney's kidney is going to provide a fresh start for Caitlin. Tomorrow we start a new chapter her life. Reporter: It's dawn on the day of the surgery. Dr. Lock and Katie check in on the two donors before surgery. Happy donation day. I kept thinking, I'll get nervous as it gets closer. But it doesn't get much closer than this and I'm still good. Reporter: The donors will go into surgery first. It's carefully timed choreography to ensure the kidney will spend as little time as possible outside a human body. By 7:30, Dr. Lock is scrubbing in to remove pastor Derek's kidney. Like any surgery, removing a kidney is not without risk or potential complications. But most people can live a Normal life with just one kidney. While the precious organs are being removed, the people who are about to receive them have come down to preop. This morning, I feel very calm. Happy kidney day. Reporter: Down the hall, high schooler Caitlin and her parents await. Very excited and nervous. Reporter: Just after noon, Dr. Lock removes pastor Derek's kidney and hands it off to a second surgical team. The precious cargo placed in the cooler for a quick journey down the hall to where young mom Alison waits. One down, one to go. With no time to lose, she checks on her next patient. Her kidney is beautiful. I'll see you in just a little bit. Reporter: Minutes later, high schooler Caitlin is wheeled back to the O.R. Her new kidney arrives. Because it's from a living donor, it will last longer than one from a deceased donor. It takes three hours to sew in the new kidney and right away it's doing Brett. It looks absolutely gorgeous, started making lots of urine right on the table. Reporter: The relief and gratitude are palpable, etched in her parent's faces. Within 24 hours, Caitlin is taking her first shaky steps with her new kidney on board. Down the hall, pastor Derek is sitting up in a chair, minus a kidney. What would you say to folks who are skeptical, like I could never be as generous as pastor dereksome If we want someone to help us in our time of need, we have to be willing to help in their time of need. Reporter: Caitlin's dad is once again optimistic. Thinking about her future, going back to college, start dating boys again. Doing all the things that an 18-year-old young adult should be able to do. Reporter: What's barely registering is the fact that he's about to donate his own kidney tomorrow to keep the chain going. Donor chains like this one can revolutionize the ways that those in need are matched with potential dodonors. But according to Dr. Lock, what's missing is one centralized system. If they can do that, we would be able to optimize living kidney donation in this country and make a significant dent in our waiting list. Reporter: These patients don't have to wait any longer. 24 hours after surgery, we're there as they're about to meet their mystery donors. We're here to meet each other. You've got your kidney from Mr. Lambert. Kourtney came forward to donate in honor of Alison and she donated to an 18-year-old young woman who can go back to getting back to life. Reporter: Slowly, they share details about each other's lives. For pastor Derek, his kidney did indeed go to a young mother. Alison raising young children similar in age to his own. Thank you. Reporter: Turns out the other kidney went from one black belt in karate to another. I was hoping that would be her donor, and it was. I'm assuming the doctors say you can go back to doing martial arts? No more contact, but can't risk hurting the kidney. Reporter: It's a gift that must be taken good care of, and a gift that will forever unite these patients. Their families, and the medical team that brought them together. You look in people's eyes and you see hope that wasn't there before. You see the promise of a future they weren't sure they were going to have. Hats off to Dr. Lock's team, which is continuing the chain next week, and hopes to have 50 transplant <suffixs by the end of the year.
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