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  • You're donating your kidney to--

  • A stranger.

  • Right.

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • I think the coolest part about donating a kidney to a stranger

  • is I may have absolutely nothing in common with my recipient.

  • Organ transplants cross racial divides, social divides,

  • political divides.

  • It's such a visceral reminder of how we really are completely

  • the same.

  • That is a gift.

  • My name's Hendrik Gerrits.

  • In a week and a half, I'm going to be giving my kidney

  • to a complete stranger.

  • I'm 37.

  • I'm a long distance runner, a recent rock climber,

  • and the father of two beautiful girls.

  • My wife, Lumin, is a painter.

  • I've lived in two places in my life, Wyoming and New York.

  • I just remember traveling home on the subway.

  • I, probably like a lot of Americans,

  • was getting pretty overwhelmed with the news.

  • And I just felt like I was in this rut.

  • And I heard this amazing story from this woman

  • Christine Gentry on one of my favorite podcasts called Risk!

  • And she found out that by donating her kidney,

  • she could set off a chain of donations.

  • And I just remember it was one of those crying-on-the-subway

  • moments as you heard this story.

  • I was overwhelmed by the power of the story

  • but also just immediately felt like, that's my thing.

  • I knew I could do it.

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • We are eight days away from my operation,

  • and I'm here to meet for the first time

  • with Dr. Del Pizzo, who will be my surgeon.

  • I'm really excited about that.

  • I am trying to imagine that this is something like a race day

  • scenario.

  • I need to be able to visualize what

  • it's going to be like, what the recovery is going to be like.

  • But I feel like I'm going in to meet with my coach.

  • Hi, how are you?

  • Dr. Del Pizzo.

  • Joe Del Pizzo, good to see you.

  • Nice to meet you.

  • Welcome.

  • Thanks.

  • Have a seat.

  • Thanks

  • I have a couple of questions for you.

  • OK.

  • You're donating your kidney to--

  • --a stranger.

  • Right.

  • So you're an altruistic donor.

  • So thank you for doing that.

  • Yeah.

  • We are going to use your left kidney for the donation.

  • OK.

  • Your left kidney.

  • OK.

  • Both of your kidneys work exactly the same.

  • Your body's not going to miss one more than the other.

  • OK.

  • And the surgery is done through one little incision

  • in your belly button.

  • It's called laparoendoscopic single-site surgery.

  • Your body won't recognize that you have one kidney versus two.

  • OK.

  • And it won't adversely affect the rest of your life

  • in any way.

  • If it did, we wouldn't let you or anyone else

  • donate their kidney.

  • Yeah.

  • You're not only helping the person who's

  • getting your kidney on the 19th, but that person

  • is going to come off the list of people waiting

  • for a kidney in the country, and everyone else on the list

  • is going to move up.

  • Yeah.

  • So you are helping thousands of people.

  • So you're already part of a huge team.

  • Yeah.

  • OK.

  • All right?

  • Well, thanks so much.

  • Good to meet you.

  • Looking forward to it.

  • Thanks again for everything, OK?

  • Yeah, OK.

  • I'll see you soon.

  • OK, see you.

  • A non-directed kidney donor is someone like myself

  • who just wants to help someone in need.

  • The power of that gift is that I'm giving a kidney,

  • but don't need a kidney in return.

  • And what that can do is unlock all of this potential

  • in the paired donor exchange.

  • So there are all of these pairs floating out there,

  • but the difficulty is matching them up.

  • I found out that they found my match,

  • and she's a 20-year-old woman who lives on the East Coast.

  • And it's just very overwhelming.

  • As an non-directed donor you very much

  • have to be prepared to not meet your recipient.

  • I can only imagine the difficulties

  • that she must be going through now.

  • Not only that, but she has a hero in her own life

  • who's donating a kidney on her behalf

  • so that she can receive my kidney.

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • Dialysis is not an easy thing for sure.

  • You're very tired, lethargic all the time.

  • It does take a toll.

  • Just, you're so tired.

  • So I hook up to this every night for nine, nine and half hours

  • a night.

  • My name is Kali, I'm 21 years old.

  • Depending on what time she has to leave in the morning

  • is what time she has to hook up at night.

  • At six months old, my doctor diagnosed me

  • with nephrotic syndrome.

  • And at five years old, I ended up on dialysis.

  • And at six years old, I received a kidney transplant

  • from a deceased donor.

  • In February 2017, they started to realize

  • my kidney was rejecting.

  • By October, I was back on dialysis.

  • I had to put my dreams on hold and I

  • had to stop going to school.

  • They said that it was going to be a pretty hard match.

  • On a scale of 0 to 100 antibody scale, with 100

  • being you're a really hard match, they said I was 99.

  • The doctors told me I should definitely share my story

  • to just get the word out.

  • And see if there are people that would want to be a donor.

  • Tracy, my friend of five years, came forward.

  • I stepped forward to become a donor

  • so that I could try to help Kali and give her the life

  • that she deserves.

  • Even though I'm not a direct match for Kali,

  • I am a match for somebody out there.

  • Hendrik is giving his kidney to Kali,

  • and Tracy, who really wanted to give her

  • a kidney but wasn't a match, gave it to someone else.

  • And if that person who got a kidney also

  • has someone who is willing to donate for them,

  • there's another kidney that's still out there

  • that goes to another person.

  • And that's how a chain develops.

  • So this kind of pay it forward mentality.

  • It's a win-win situation, because by stepping forward

  • as a donor, I'm able to help Kali.

  • And at that same time, I'm helping a complete stranger

  • who's also in dire need of a kidney.

  • Tomorrow I'll be receiving a kidney

  • from a complete stranger.

  • I'm so grateful.

  • I just can't wait.

  • [UPBEAT MUSIC]

  • It is November 19, it's about 7:00 AM.

  • And I'm about to donate my left kidney.

  • This is Urethra Franklin The Second,

  • who's named after Christine Gentry's kidney, who's

  • the woman who inspired my story.

  • I really hope that this kidney goes

  • on to a very fruitful life for a long time.

  • So--

  • I think that 15 minute period right beforehand

  • is kind of the scariest moment.

  • Because the reality of the situation sets in.

  • But then I felt a sense of calm.

  • And I felt like I'd prepared myself for some

  • of those nerves and fear.

  • 20 years ago, in order to donate your kidney,

  • you had to have a major operation.

  • The whole point of developing the minimally invasive

  • technique, which we've taken a step further

  • at NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell,

  • was to decrease the disincentives

  • for healthy people to donate their kidney.

  • You guys ready to do a surgical time out?

  • You make a 3 inch incision in the bellybutton area.

  • Starting--

  • And through that incision goes a small device

  • where you can put instruments through.

  • And one of those instruments is a camera

  • that then projects onto a large high-definition screen.

  • You basically remove the kidney from all its attachments

  • except for the blood supply and the ureter, which

  • is the small tube that carries urine from your kidney

  • down to your bladder.

  • Unbeknownst to Hendrik, Kali was getting her transplant

  • in the next room.

  • And Tracy was in the hospital as well.

  • There were basically three simultaneous surgeries

  • going on.

  • Hendrik's kidney was removed, then

  • that was taken across and given to Dr. Sultan.

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

  • He starts the recipient surgery, and I'm back in Hendrik's room

  • finishing up the surgery.

  • The third surgery that day was when Tracy's kidney

  • was harvested and was safely and successfully

  • removed to be flown to another hospital in the country

  • to use in another recipient as part of the paired exchange.

  • When I woke up from anesthesia, groggily I

  • remember my mom and my wife's face.

  • And they said everything had gone well, but even better,

  • they said that my recipient was at the hospital.

  • And that she really wanted to meet me.

  • It was incredibly emotional.

  • I was very excited.

  • It was a dream scenario, really.

  • Hi.

  • [PIANO MUSIC]

  • How are you?

  • Really good.

  • [LAUGHTER]

  • I have a letter for you.

  • Yeah?

  • Yeah.

  • Did you get my letter?

  • Yes.

  • Yeah.

  • Yeah, read it after I was conscious that day, so.

  • Yeah.

  • Yeah.

  • You feeling good?

  • Feeling better?

  • Really good.

  • Great.

  • Really good.

  • I took good care of it, it's a good kidney.

  • They said it took so quick.

  • Never seen--

  • Good.

  • --a kidney work so quick.

  • Good.

  • Yeah.

  • That's great.

  • So.

  • I'm so happy for you.

  • Sounds like you got so much in front of you.

  • Yeah.

  • And my--

  • Got a whole new life.

  • Yeah.

  • Because I was on the deceased donor

  • list at my local hospital, and they said

  • it was going to be at least six to seven years.

  • Whoa.

  • So--

  • That's too long.

  • Yeah.

  • Yeah.

  • Thank you.

  • Thank you.

  • Thank you so much.

  • I mean, we don't even know how--

  • Yeah.

  • --to thank you.

  • Yeah.

  • It's just been a really long journey.

  • I bet.