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Two Local Residents Part Of Record Kidney Donation Chain

MAYWOOD, Ill. (CBS) -- A single good deed helped save the lives of 30 people. Two Chicago area residents are among 60 people who took part in the longest kidney transplant chain ever.

It started with a kidney donor in Riverside, Calif., who launched a chain that bounced from the West Coast to the East Coast and points in between for four months.

Sunday's New York Times headline said it all "60 Lives, 30 Kidneys, All Linked."

As CBS 2's Roseanne Tellez reports, a woman from West Chicago and a man from Joliet were links number 12 and 30 in the chain.

The exciting process means people like them no longer need to find a donor who's their match they need only to find a donor.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Michele Fiore reports


Paulette Behan and Don Terry were thrilled to be front page news, because this, they hope, will get the word out about kidney transplant chains.

When Paulette's sister Sunni, wasn't a match for Paulette, doctors asked her to participate in the "Pay It Forward" program, by donating to a stranger instead.

"She was elated to hear this; that she could help not only me, but someone else," Paulette said.

Paulette got her kidney from a different donor on Sept. 23, 2011, and Sunni donated her kidney to someone else in the chain four days later.

"She stayed with me for two weeks after the transplant, and my husband took care of us both," Paulette said.

Dr. John Milner, of Loyola University Health Systems, said the hospital is part of national registry that gives patients, who would normally wait 5-7 years for a kidney, a much better chance of finding a match.

"We're really starting to solve the problem of supply and demand mismatch in this country, by working outside of our own centers and participating as teams, rather than being competition with other hospitals," Milner said.

Don Terry was the last in the chain of 30 transplant recipients, receiving a donated kidney Dec. 19, 2011, after a year of grueling dialysis.

"There are so many patients in there, sitting there four hours a day, three times a week, dying inside," he said.

Terry had no healthy donors to pay it forward, but the registry allowed the chain to end at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, because the hospital had started so many previous chains; 13 to be exact.

Terry said he doesn't want to be the last. It just takes one Good Samaritan, he said. Donors like his are truly special people.

"What do you say to someone who gives you life?" Terry said.

Each chain begins with a Good Samaritan who is willing to donate for nothing in return, but look what they can accomplish.

Milner urged all Chicago hospitals to join this national list, because it would give so many more patients a chance.

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