When a loved one needs a kidney, often a friend or family member offers to donate one of theirs. Terry Rose, however, was willing to give the gift of life to a stranger, to anyone at all in need. In December, one of Terry's healthy kidneys was transplanted into Minh Dinh, a very sick young man. They met for the first time last night and spoke with the Early Show this morning from the University of California at Irvine Medical Center in California.
Rose says she was inspired by a People Magazine story about a North Carolina teacher donating a kidney to one of her students. From that story, Rose learned that kidney donors do not have to be related or even the same ethnicity, and they don't have to be close in age. She reflected on her own life. She doesn't have children and thought it was unlikely that any relative would need a kidney. So, Rose decided that she had two and would be happy to donate one to a stranger in need.
On December 14, 2000, one of her kidneys went to a 28-year-old man, who'd waited 4 years for a transplant.
But anonymous kidney donation is rare. In fact, some hospitals won't perform such operations. Ethicists, doctors, and social workers are still trying to work out guidelines for altruistic donors. For instance, can a donor attach restrictions on who gets a kidney? To that Rose replies, "If you're going to attach restrictions, you're not really ready to give." She says she believes in giving unconditionally.
The hospital had to make sure Rose was healthy and sincere and had no expectations of monetary gain. The Irvine Medical Center put her through physical and psychological tests for 7 months. She passed with flying colors. They learned she was truly a giver. She donates to charity, paints homes for the elderly, and is quick to contribute to walkathons and office collections.
Meanwhile, 28-year-old Minh Dinh was very sick, undergoing in-home dialysis four times a day. His wedding, his life, were on hold.
Donor and recipient recovered at the medical center on two different floors. He sent flowers addressed to his "Unknown Angel." She sent a Christmas card wishing a speedy recovery. The two wanted to meet but doctors said, "No, get over the humps." Last Wednesday, it had been 3 months since the surgery for Dinh, and the hospital arranged for the two to finally meet.
Rose says meeting her recipient creates closure for her. She's moving on with her life and is not looking for some long-term friendship to develop. She says she's surprised by all the attention she's getting. "I'm amazed at people's reactions. This is so matter-of-fact to me. People should just do things for others. Sometime it gets kind of embarrassing, to get all of these positive pats on the back. The only reason I'm talking to the media is for awareness. To remind people to give blood and think about donating organs," says Rose.
She says the worst part of the experience was waiting. "It took a year to gthrough the process, then waiting for them to find a match. It's like having a baby. The waiting part was hard. I didn't set any parameters on who the kidney went to. I just waited for them to find the right recipient."
"His life will be easier. His life is just starting," says Rose of Dinh. "They [Dinh and his fiance] are getting married. It's a really good feeling. Again, my whole purpose in giving this interview is to remind people that you can help so many people just by giving blood or recycling your body when die. It works! If we're all going to be environmentally conscious, do it with your body. If this just opens a few people's eyes, it will all be worth it."
Dinh had to wait years for someone like Rose to come along. "I did worry. Very worried. I worried that she changed mind. I waited 4 years and expected a dead person, not a live person, to give a kidney," he says.
Now, Dihn and his fiance, Jocelyn, are planning to get married in December and he spendhis time relaxing and planting flowers in his garden.
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