ROCHESTER, Minn. - Are you the missing link in a chain that could save someone's life?
We so often hear about the need for organ donors, and while many donors are deceased, living donors are growing in popularity.
2019 was a record setting year for living donors. Nearly 7,400 living donor transplants took place, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
In 2018, 76-percent of all kidney transplants at Mayo Clinic in Rochester were from living donors.
Not everyone who goes under the knife as a living donor knows who will be the lucky recipient of their life saving organ donation.
"Last year in 2019, for the 3 sites of Mayo Clinic, we had 19 non-directed donors," said Kay Kosberg, Mayo Clinic's Kidney Care Donor Care Coordinator.
That's where Good Samaritans like Danielle Reuss come into play.
Reuss was a non-directed organ kidney donor.
Little did she know that her selfless giving would kick-start a chain reaction of living donors, known as the Paired Kidney Exchange Program.
"Danielle donated to the first recipient and their donor went on to donate to the next recipient and then kind of on down the line a domino effect," explained Kosberg.
Kosberg helps to pair up people who want to donate to a loved one but for whatever reason they're not a match.
"So we would basically swap donors. Your donor would donate to someone else's recipient and then their donor would donate back to your recipient," said Kosberg.
Reuss is a Transplant Social Worker at Mayo Clinic and has witnessed the struggles her patients endure while waiting for a life-saving organ.
"There's people who are very very difficult to match and finding that living donor is like finding a needle in a haystack. If I might have been that needle I couldn't help but make my way forward to the top of that stack," said Reuss.
The furthest thing from wanting accolades for her generosity, Reuss kept it under wraps for more than a year that she donated a kidney.
While the majority of living donors have a recipient in mind, Reuss is proof that you don't have to know who you're giving the gift of life too, in order to save someone.
If you're interested in learning about being a living or deceased donor head to Donate Life America and HRSA.
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