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LOUISVILLE, Ky. --- You've probably heard of chain e-mails connecting you to strangers, but a local woman credits a kidney chain for saving her life. WDRB's Jennifer Baileys explains how not finding a match here at home allowed JoAnne Breckenridge to help save others across the country.
"My head was hurting and I couldn't figure out why it was hurting so I went to my doctor, he said my blood pressure was up and then he wanted to run some tests," said JoAnne Breckenridge, kidney recipient.
The tests revealed one of her kidney's was failing. She eventually started dialysis while waiting to find a match and eventually a new kidney.
"I was confined to my room, had to hook up at a certain time, I didn't want to travel like we always do, because if I traveled I had to take everything with me and I didn't want to do that because I wouldn't enjoy myself," said Breckenridge.
While she was going through the painful day to day dialysis, her family and friends including her husband William were being rejected as a life saving match.
"We were down to the point where we had to do something," said William Breckenridge, husband.
That's when they discovered the option of a kidney exchange program at Jewish Hospital.
"You can create a chain that has you know 20, 30 different transplant pairs in it just by having one person who comes forward who is willing to donate to anybody," said Dr. Michael Hughes, transplant surgeon.
Wanting to save his wife, William decided to give one of his kidney's to a complete stranger in California, joining the chain doctors say started with a woman in Greece who gave to a man in Pennsylvania who's friend gave the kidney that saved JoAnne Breckenridge. Her Surgeon, Doctor Michael Marvin says the chain had 17 different transplants.
"There are patients that die everyday waiting for a transplant and there are thousands of people on the kidney transplant waiting list. The majority of patients on the transplant list throughout the country are waiting for kidneys so this definitely gives another option for them to get off dialysis and to improve their life," said Dr. Marvin, transplant surgeon.
In less than two weeks, JoAnne had a new kidney and her husband William had one less. At that time they didn't know who to thank for her kidney and her new life, until their son checked his Facebook page.
"I had a Facebook message and I looked at it, I didn't recognize the person that's sending so I looked at the message and it said 'Hey I believe my brother donated a kidney to your mom,'" William Breckenridge, son.
That message lead to a face-to-face meeting not only with JoAnne's donor Doug, but also with Doug's friend Charlie who started the chain and received a kidney from Greece.
"Tearful we all had a whole bunch of tissues," said JoAnne.
"If you can donate to somebody, it's great you know. You only need one kidney and it's a very easy process and I think it's probably the most rewarding thing I've done," said William.