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CHICAGO — Six patients who received a kidney transplant met their donors for the first time on Wednesday.
The rare 12-person kidney exchange at Northwestern Memorial Hospital took months of careful planning, and took dozens of people coordinating what doctors call “a swapportunity.”
The surgeries happened over three days last week.
Scott Rial received a kidney from Daisy Ruiz. Ruiz wanted to donate to her Aunt Clotilde, but wasn’t a match. However, Clotilde was a match with Philip Cameli.
Cameli wasn’t a match for his friend Brendan Flaherty. But, Brendan was a match with Kimberly Cooper.
Cooper was the Good Samaritan who started it all when she decided on her own to donate a kidney.
“Just to know that I was going to change my life but really change someone else’s life,” she said.
“Thank you so much for giving me a life. Giving me a future,” Flaherty said.
This was Flaherty’s second kidney transplant. At 21, he’s spent much of his life on dialysis.
“I don’t know what else to say but ‘Thank you.’ I’m so grateful to her,” he said.
The donors and recipients were a little tired during the meeting Wednesday, but they were looking forward to getting to know each other.
Cooper says she hopes this will encourage more people to become living donors. There are currently about 100,000 people on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant.