This week's issue of People magazine tells an amazing story of kindness and generosity. Five members of one special family all donated kidneys to others in need, including several strangers.
The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen interviewed organ donors Tom Falsey and his wife, Joyce; Tom's father, Jim Falsey; his sister-in-law, Joan Schurman, and his niece, Michelle Desler. Also joining them were two of the kidney recipients, Aaron Schurman (Joann's son and Michelle's brother) and Jordan Shaw (with his mother, Carol).
The story started with Aaron Schurman, who, back in 1990, needed a kidney transplant. What happened then?
"I received a transplant on July 9, 1990, from my mom, the first time," says Aaron. "That transplant lasted about eight or nine years. I was on dialysis another four years and received another transplant from my sister, Michelle."
Joan Schurman had no question that she was going to give one of her kidneys to her son.
"Definitely no decision," she says. "Your son, you want to do everything you possibly can do. Just by the grace of God, we were able to do it. We matched, and he lived a very good life for the next eight years."
Fast forward eight years later. What happened then?
Aaron picks up the story: "The disease that originally took the first kidney came back. They didn't give a reason why, but I ended up being basically put back on dialysis to go through the whole routine again."
That's when his uncle, Tom Falsey, stepped in.
Says Tom, "I was a match for Aaron, so we decided that I would donate, but he was still rejecting the kidney from his mom, so they took his kidney out, thinking that he'd stop rejecting it then and I would be a suitable donor. The family learned 48 hours prior to surgery that things did not work out as planned and surgery was called off."
When Aaron's sister, Michelle Desler, realized that their uncle's kidney was not going to be able to be implanted into her brother, she took action.
Says Michelle, "Well, I had always wanted to donate a kidney to him as well, when I knew that he needed another one, but…he always said, 'I don't want any other family members to do that. I don't want them to have to go through this.' But I just stepped in and decided to get tested to see if I was even a suitable donor and went from there."
But she did this all behind Aaron's back. Why didn't she tell her brother she was thinking of doing this?
Explains Michelle, "Well, because of the fact he had always said, 'Even if you were my donor, I wouldn't take your kidney… You've got kids. You're married.' And he had seen Mom go through the surgery and back in 1990, it was a lot different than it is now. So that was just all concerns that he had for me, on my part, for myself, and for…the rest of my family."
How did Aaron feel when his sister finally did all this behind his back and found out she was a match and wanted to give one of her kidneys?
"I was really happy about it," says Aaron. "Like I said, at first, I said no to her to doing it for the first week after she first told me. But…it came to the point (where) my health was deteriorating quickly,
and I needed to have it."
Meanwhile, Aaron's uncle, Tom Falsey, had decided he wanted to donate his kidney to someone anonymously.
"I saw the turn-around for Aaron's life," recalls Tom, "from being very sick to healthy. Since I was prepped for surgery and all that, I knew I had two healthy kidneys. I wanted to donate to somebody. All I needed was a recipient."
And that brings the story to 17-year-old Jordan Shaw, who received his transplant in July 2002.
"It was a remarkable day," says Jordan. His mother, Carol, says the whole experience has been "very emotional and very rewarding, at the same time. It was nice to see Jordan regain his health. Being in high school and to be on dialysis is a very difficult thing to go through, and the day they told us that there was an anonymous donor and were asking if we were interested, my husband and I didn't really know quite what to think."
Jordan and Tom started writing to one another. And then Joyce Falsey, Tom's wife, and Jim Falsey, Tom's brother, both decided that they, too, would like to become anonymous kidney donors.
Says Jim, "When Tom was getting ready for his surgery, he went on a little fitness program and lost 20 pounds and sent me an e-mail, challenging his older brother to lose 20 pounds and I said, 'For me, it would be easier to lose a kidney. That was the beginning."
Since that time, Jim has donated one of his kidneys to a complete stranger, as has Joyce.