Kay Plozizka found it hard to see her patients suffering when she was blessed with such good health.
So the dialysis center nurse offered one of her kidneys to 58-year-old Joe Cline, who accepted. The transplant surgery was done March 8.
"I am a religious person. That had some role in it," said Plozizka, of Litchfield, Ill., about an hour east of St. Louis. "But I wanted to give back to someone a gift like the gift that I had gotten."
Plozizka said she knew after becoming a dialysis nurse five years ago that she would probably donate a kidney to a patient one day. Her only requirement was that the recipient had to commit to a lifetime regimen of anti-rejection medicine.
She believed Cline would be diligent because he desperately wanted to live for his 5-year-old grandson, Hunter.
"I wanted to see if I could get him to the goal of being there for Hunter, his wife, and his daughter," she said.
The surgery was done at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, one of the leading kidney transplant centers in the country. Doctors there said living donor transplants have surpassed cadaver donors in the past three years and are the future of kidney donation.
For Plozizka, donating her kidney wasn't a big step. She and other staff members at DaVita Maryville (Ill.) Dialysis grow close to their patients.
"It's like a little family, eight chairs, three shifts a day," she said.
Five other Maryville dialysis patients waiting for kidneys either were a poor match for Plozizka or had family members being evaluated as donors.
As soon as blood tests last summer indicated she'd be a compatible donor, Plozizka told Cline she'd like to help him.
Cline, who had been on dialysis for 27 months for diabetes-related kidney disease, couldn't believe his good fortune.
He had recently received a call from Barnes-Jewish about a possible cadaver kidney, but it turned out to be too damage to use. He called his nurse's gift an "indescribable blessing."
"I've thanked her, her family, her children," said Cline. "At the end of the day you still don't think it's enough."
Surgeons said the transplanted kidney went to work immediately.
Gigi Cline said her husband looked like "the old Joe," in the recovery room after surgery.
"He looked perkier, he had pink color to him instead of pale and washed out."