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Woman's selfless act begins transplant chain, saving 4 lives

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Posted at 12:11 PM, Dec 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-30 12:11:24-05

A Kansas City woman's selfless act triggered a wave of giving that resulted in four people receiving life-saving surgeries.

According to WDAF-TV in Kansas City, Alli Shappell had always wanted to be an organ donor. So when her childhood pastor told her that he needed a transplant to fix his failing kidneys, she jumped at the chance.

Initial tests cleared Shappell as a donor. But unfortunately, she and the pastor were not a match for a transplant. But she was determined to find a way to get her pastor a kidney.

So Shappell decided to become an altruistic donor — which meant that while she couldn't donate a kidney to her pastor, she would donate to someone else in need with the stipulation that her pastor receives a kidney from someone else. Her decision to donate triggered an “altruistic donor chain” — a method of matching willing donors incompatible with loved ones with patients in need with the goal of finding new organs for all involved.

Shappell was matched with a stranger in need of a new kidney, who also had a willing donor who was incompatible. That willing donor was then matched to a third patient in need of a kidney with a willing but incompatible donor.

All in all, Shappell and her pastor were grouped with three other willing donors who were incompatible with patients to whom they wished to donate their kidney. The pastor received the life-saving transplant, and Shappell said her donation meant that much more meaning that more people were saved.

"I think it made me more excited just because, in a way, I feel like I got to help more people," she told WDAF-TV.

According to KidneyFund.org, the average wait time for a kidney transplant is five years. There are usually about 100,000 people waiting for a kidney at any given time.

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.