Grandmas do some amazing things for their grandchildren. Yvonne Gordon is a stellar example—she donated her kidney to a stranger so that her granddaughters’ father could receive a kidney from a different stranger.
If all of this sounds complicated, it is! Gordon and her son-in-law, Gabriel Baty, were two links in a recent, record-breaking 60-person chain of kidney donations that started in August and ended on December 19, when Gordon donated her kidney. The donations and transplants took place in 17 hospitals that spanned 11 different states.
Gordon and Baty, both from the San Francisco Bay Area, underwent surgery at UC San Francisco. Gordon couldn’t donate her kidney directly to her son-in-law because her blood type didn’t match his. Her kidney went to a man in Los Angeles, whose nephew gave a kidney to someone else on his behalf.
Baty got his kidney from a woman donor, who offered her organ so her mother could get a transplant. Baty, who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and failing kidneys in 1998, no longer has to have dialysis treatments and his two daughters are delighted to be able to spend more time with their father.
What makes Gordon’s donation even more remarkable is that she’s a cancer survivor. Twenty years ago she underwent a year of chemotherapy for stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Despite her medical history and being a bit older than the average donor, (she’s 63), she was in great shape from regular workouts at the gym. Now she’s fully recovered and back at her job as a hospital speech pathologist.
Kidney donation chains are becoming more common as more living donors offer one of their two kidneys on behalf of a loved one. The recipient and donor sign up with the National Kidney Registry as a pair and then coordinators and surgeons help find compatible matches. This most recent “kidney chain” started with one “altruistic” donor who wanted to give a kidney to anyone who needed it.