A large crowd gathered in New Jersey Thursday night to meet a group of strangers – except this group was already intricately connected.
Eight people had donated their kidneys to strangers so their spouses could in turn become recipients for kidney transplants, My 9 TV reported. Fifteen of the 16 donors and recipients - with their families - gathered at the hospital to meet one another, and it was emotional to say the least. The one person missing was the anonymous donor who started the chain, nj.com reported.
This was one of the largest kidney exchanges in the country.
“The fact that someone who doesn’t know me would give me an organ blew me away,” said John Wincz, who attended the reunion.
The transplant program was made possible by St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. The transplants took place over the course of three days in February.
“It’s a complex process, it doesn’t happen very often at one institution; fortunately we have a very large transplant program,” said Dr. Shamkant Mulgaonkar, the chief of Saint Barnabas’ transplant division.
Diane Schmidt, whose husband needed a kidney, donated one to a complete stranger – Wincz. She said she was “no hero.”
“If I had 12 more kidneys, I would give it,” she said.