PORTLAND -- An Oregon woman is proof that after years of battling severe kidney disease, there is hope.
A game of hide-and-seek with her grandson is possible for Renee Kline because of a kidney transplant she had last March.
“It was pretty much a miracle," she said.
Kline’s kidney came from a total stranger. The surgery at Portland's Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center was part of an elaborate plan known as a kidney transplant chain.
“It’s sort of a wonderful multiple gift exchange that involved virtually every region in the country," explained Dr. William Bennett, with Legacy Good Sam.
Several cities were involved in the chain, which matched 6 kidney donors with 6 patients waiting for transplants.
In each case, a relative or friend wanted to donate a kidney but they were not a match. So, the alliance for paired donation made the matches to strangers, based on blood-type and tissue samples.
“This was an idea to expand the living donor pool to try to get more people with living transplants," Bennett said. "It's better because live transplants generally work better and last longer than deceased donor transplants."
Kline’s life-saving donation came from Kevin Smith, who lives in Huntington Beach, California. His kidney ended up with her because it did not match a friend who needed one.
“I realized maybe others could benefit. He and I didn’t care whose organ went into whose body," Smith said. “It was very nice to know that my kidney went into a young mother and grandmother."
As for Kline, for the first time in years, she is well enough to travel. Her first trip was to California to meet Smith in person.
“I was so nervous meeting him because I'm thinking, ‘I'm meeting this person who gave me this huge gift,’" Kline said.
“To have my loved ones hear firsthand the doors that had opened for Renee, just made it all that much better," Smith said.
Legacy Good Samaritan has had about a dozen patients benefit from kidney transplant chains in the past two years.
Kline was able to become part of the transplant chain because her cousin was willing to donate a kidney. That cousin completed her link by donating to a patient in Boston.
“It takes special people and there are special people out there," she said.