Woman gives kidney to stranger, triggering transplant chain to help save 4 lives

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WDAF) – A young woman from Gardner, Kansas, who donated one of her kidneys this week set off a chain of events that will save several lives.

Alli Shappell knew she wanted to be a kidney donor when she was a junior in high school after portraying Shelby in a play version of "Steel Magnolias." It's based on true story in which the character dies due to complications from diabetes.

“So many people are born with diabetes, and they didn’t ask for that, and it just really affected me,” she told WDAF. “One of the scenes, she has a diabetic attack, which I didn’t even know was thing. I had to look up videos about, and it’s so scary.”

Six months ago, when Shappell’s childhood pastor told her he was on the verge of kidney failure, she wanted to help.

The two visited the Kidney Transplant Center at the University of Kansas Health System and underwent tests to see if they were a match.

“I was OK to be a donor, but I didn’t match him was the problem," she said. "So then we had to get involved with the swap program.”

Shappell was an altruistic donor, meaning she was willing to donate her kidney to a stranger, which had a positive ripple effect.

“Altruistic donors are not frequent,” said Dr. Sean Kumer, a transplant doctor at the hospital. “When you have an altruistic donor coming in that doesn’t necessarily have a connection to somebody, those are opportunities you look for to create a chain.”

The chain connects people who want to donate their kidney, but aren’t a match with their loved ones, with people needing one.

Eight people were involved in this kidney chain: four donors, including Shappell, and four recipients, which included her pastor.

“They kind of go all the way down the chain, and the last one donates to the first one,” Kumer said.

“I think it made me more excited just because, in a way, I feel like I got to help more people,” Shappell added.

The 21-year-old, who’s studying to become a nurse, hopes her story inspires others to consider becoming organ donors.

“If people could just see how much you really are helping someone it changes your life,” she said.

There are currently more than 100,000 people across the country waiting on a kidney transplant.

 

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