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CHICAGO — Five people who owe their lives to five strangers met for the first time Monday.

After losing their dad, Hannah and Bethany Goralski decided they were going to become living donors, and give a kidney to anyone who needed it.

Back in 2011, their dad had been the one who needed a kidney, which their brother Josh eventually provided. But after the kidney failed, Mark Goralski grew too sick for another transplant, and passed away in 2018.

So Hannah and Bethany decided to become non-direct kidney donors in March, starting a chain reaction that changed the lives of five people— and counting.

“I felt badly because I couldn’t save my dad, but someone else deserves this kidney as much as he did,” Bethany Goralski said.

Hannah’s kidney went to a friend of Julia, who then donated a kidney to Michael. One of his daughters donated a kidney to Luis, and a friend of his will in turn give a kidney to someone else. Bethany’s kidney went to Melanie, so her father donated a kidney to Christopher, and the chain will continue on from there.

It’s all a bit confusing, and is made clearer by a graphic produced by the hospital (visible below).

And so all these people who needed a kidney, whether for themselves, a family member, or a friend, are all connected through a chain of transplants that continues today. The 10 people connected by this chain filed into a small conference on the 19th floor of Northwestern Memorial Hospital Monday afternoon.

One by one the donors met their transplant recipients, exchanging handshakes and hugs, and plenty of gratitude.

“It’s so cool to see how one person, in the case two people, making an unselfish decision to donate can effect so many people; and it’s not done yet,” transplant recipient Melanie Mavec said.

As part of the transplant chains, having a person that’s willing to donate but isn’t a match can still shave years off the transplant waiting period and get people back to living life.

“It was probably the biggest smile on my face for me to be able to go back into the yard and play catch with [my kids],” transplant recipient Chris Heights said. “Those were things I couldn’t get out of bed to do.”