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Altruistic donor and the transplant chain she inspired

A group of strangers helped make medical history at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco
Six patients, six donors pay it forward in life-saving kidney transplant chain 04:48

Zully Broussard loves life and says she wants others to get a chance to appreciate it, as well.

"I just want them to have that quality of life," she told CBS News. "I want their loved ones to know they're going to be around."

Earlier this month, the 55-year-old Northern California woman donated one of her kidneys to a stranger, setting off a rare chain reaction of donations.

There are many people who want to donate their kidney to a loved one in need, only to discover that their blood types aren't compatible.

Zully Broussard donated her kidney to Oswaldo Padilla, whose relative wasn't able to donate because the relative wasn't a compatible match.

Oswaldo Padilla 26, spent the last two years on dialysis, needing a new kidney. His sister-in-law, Sonia Camacho, couldn't donate to him because of their blood types. When instead he received Broussard's kidney, that freed up Camacho to donate to another stranger in need. The chain continued, leading to a total of six new transplants in early March at San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center.

The 12 patients - six donors and six recipients - met this week for their first reunion since the operations, captured exclusively by "CBS This Morning."

Oswaldo Padilla and his young daughter: Two lives changed by Zully Broussard's kidney donation. Courtesy of Oswaldo Padilla

The pairs of donors and recipients were matched with the help of a computer software program developed by a kidney transplant recipient, David Jacobs, who underwent his life-saving operation at the same San Francisco hospital in 2004.

Even though the 11 other patients were strangers, Broussard felt like she had helped her own loved ones.

"I feel like they're family even though we just met today," she said. "There's connections there."

Broussard has had a difficult time with illness in her own family. One of her sons died of cancer at a young age. Her husband also died of cancer just over a year ago. When her friend suffered kidney failure, Broussard volunteered to donate. The friend ended up receiving a kidney before Broussard could give her own. Broussard instead gave her kidney to a stranger in need.

"If I had four kidneys, I'd give away three," she said.

That altruism was passed along. Padilla's sister-in-law donated her kidney to another stranger, Norma Rodriguez.

Keith Rodriguez wanted to give his mother Norma the kidney she needed, but he couldn't because they weren't a match. She got a kidney as part of the donation chain, and he gave his to a stranger.

Rodriguez, 52, from Fresno, California, has Polycystic Kidney Disease. She knew it was just a matter of time until her kidneys failed. She inherited the disease from her father, who died at 57, and she knew what life would be like if she didn't get a kidney.

"I'm the kind of person who likes to control things," she told CBS News. "This is something that was out of my hands."

She prayed, but not for a kidney because she felt that would be selfish. "I did pray that I would have the wisdom to follow through and continue being as healthy as I could, and hope the doctors could help me," she said.

She needed to be healthy for a possible transplant should a kidney ever come. So she hit the treadmill, losing nearly fifty pounds.

"I would have friends and family say, 'Gosh Norma, you look great.' Little did they know I was fighting for my life."

Then the kidney came. A new lease on life. In turn, her son, Keith, gave his kidney to another stranger, another link in a chain started by one selfless act by Zully Broussard.

For Broussard, it's why she feels she was put on this Earth.

"I just feel it was my calling, and I feel so strongly about it. And it wasn't just me. It took all these people, all this network to get it done," she said. "I know it's bigger than us. I think this was orchestrated by a higher power."

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