Co-Worker’s Death Inspires Woman to Save Another

When Christine Graf’s colleague had a heart attack and collapsed at work, she performed chest compressions but was unable to save him. She was devastated by the loss, but also motivated by it. So motivated, in fact, that she decided to donate a kidney to a stranger in honor of her colleague.

After Christine Graf was unable to save a co-worker who suffered a heart attack, she was determined to help others. So she donated a kidney to a stranger, starting a living-donor organ transplant chain.

Christine Graf knelt on the floor and began performing chest compressions on a young man who had suffered a heart attack and collapsed. She knew the routine well, having received years of training through her work as an EMT with a fire department in suburban Chicago. But that was in the past. Christine had retired from the fire department and was now working at a factory. And the man on the floor wasn't a stranger she'd been called on to care for. It was a colleague. In spite of her training, Christine was unable to save him. "His death broke my heart," she tells the Daily Mail.

Christine was devastated — and motivated. So she "helped get a first-aid room built at her workplace," reports the NWI Times, and trained "30 of her co-workers in CPR." But that wasn't enough for Christine. She knew her colleague had kidney disease and that it had an impact on his health. So she decided to do for someone else what she hadn't been able to do for him. "I just came to the conclusion that I could save a life by donating" a kidney, she tells the Daily Mail. "I just wanted to be able to give back something after losing him."

The act of generosity was not out of character. "Christine puts others before herself," husband Eric tells the NWI Times. "It's a wonderful thing she's doing. The family and I are very proud."

Before Christine could donate, she underwent six months of "health checks, blood work and waiting," according to WGN-9 Chicago. Then she received a call that a compatible recipient had been found. She headed to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, where doctors removed one of her kidneys. It was sent to Florida and transplanted into a woman who had been on the transplant list for eight years. "I was just overjoyed and blessed that I was able to give somebody the gift of life," Christine tells WGN-9.

And while that's certainly a happy ending, it's not the end of this story. Christine's donation started a living-donor organ transplant chain. An organ donation chain begins when a donor gives to a stranger who also has a willing but incompatible donor. That person then gives to another stranger, and so on. "So far my original donation has encouraged a chain of 12 kidney donations in total, which makes me proud," Christine tells the Daily Mail.

Christine hopes that by sharing her story, others will be motivated to become donors themselves. "There are so many people in need," she says. Thanks to her generous act in honor of her co-worker, there are now 12 fewer. "It feels right that 12 lives have been saved because of him," she tells the Daily Mail.

You can learn more about living-donor transplantation here. Then donate a comment below before using the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.