Watch CBSN Live

Emotional reunion of kidney donors, recipients

Families are turning to donor chains to find matches for desperately needed organs
Families are turning to donor chains to find ... 04:00

Michael Griffen says he didn't realize what he was starting when he decided to help a stranger he read about on Facebook. Jamie Young needed a kidney transplant, and Griffen offered to donate one of his.

He got tested and found out he wasn't a match. But Griffen didn't give up. "It was still on my mind. I couldn't shake it," he told CBS News' Marlie Hall.

So he found another way to help. He donated his kidney to someone else, joining a living donor chain that resulted in Young receiving a kidney too.

"He's everything to me. I love him," she said as they embraced at Mount Sinai's Transplant Living Center in New York. "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him."

CBS News brought members of their donor chain together to talk about their experiences. Jamie Young ended up getting her kidney from a Massachusetts woman, Danielle Antonetti.

"I went into this to help my mom, and to be able to help someone else is just amazing," Antonetti said.

Her mother got a kidney from yet another donor, Randi Baudoin, and in turn Randi's mother got the donor she needed too.

"I can see in my mom's eyes how thankful she is every day," she said. "Her donor wanted to remain anonymous and I owe everything to them."

The series of transplants took place at several hospitals including Mount Sinai, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Johns Hopkins. Computer programs help match up donors and recipients.

Living donor chains like this are key to saving more people, said Dr. Sandy Florman, the director of Mount Sinai's Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute. "There are 125,000 people waiting for an organ in the U.S., and 100,000 of them are waiting for a kidney," Florman said.

A kidney from a living donor will last about 15 to 20 years, while a kidney transplant from a deceased donor only lasts about 7 years. Either type of transplant beats the alternative: "It gives people much more healthy life than staying on dialysis," says CBS News medical contributor Dr. Holly Phillips.

Another successful transplant chain in California earlier this year involved 12 people -- 6 donors and 6 recipients -- who reunited to tell their story on "CBS This Morning." It was also the result of an altruistic donor who decided to help a stranger.

The participants in the transplant chain Michael Griffen kicked off are grateful for this new chapter in their lives. "I'm ready to live life and get out there and conquer the world with a new friend and now a whole new group of friends," Jamie Young said.

Members of the kidney donor chain met each other at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. CBS News
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.