Living Donor Kidney Donations Connect Three Women

Abby Rossow was just 21 when she learned she would need a kidney transplant. A friend was willing to donate but wasn't a perfect match for Abby, so the two were placed on Mayo's paired donation list.

Abby Rossow was exhausted. It was a familiar feeling. The 21-year-old had been living with fatigue for years, a side effect of kidney failure that had been diagnosed in the spring of 2017. "I was just really tired all the time," Abby tells KAAL-TV. By the fall of that year, Abby's kidneys had failed completely and she learned she would need a kidney transplant. While she waited for a compatible donor, she began dialysis to do the work her body no longer could.

Though lifesaving, the draining treatment was hardly a perfect solution. "That just made me sick all the time," Abby tells KAAL of dialysis. Not that anyone would know. "Abby's always been very positive and upbeat about everything," Renita McCabe Irvin, who has known Abby since she was a little girl, tells KAAL. When Renita learned about Abby's health struggles, they touched her heart. "Afterwards I looked into what it takes to be a living donor," she says.

Days of testing would follow, and at the end Renita would learn "she was a good match, but not a perfect one" for Abby, whose doctors decided to hold off on a transplant. While they waited, both Abby and Renita were "placed on Mayo Clinic's paired donation list," which works to match Mayo Clinic patients in need of kidneys with willing donors. "Our goal is actually that the best matched kidney get to the recipient so the transplant will do as well long-term as possible," Andrew Bentall, M.B., Ch.B., M.D., a transplant nephrologist at Mayo Clinic, tells the station.

The match-making site would soon find a more compatible donor for Abby: Katie McKee, who was no stranger to the benefits of organ donation. Katie had "worked in the transplant center at Mayo Clinic and later at LifeSource, an organization dedicated to saving lives through organ donation," the station reports. Those experiences had inspired Katie to offer a kidney to a stranger, making her an "altruistic" or "good Samaritan" donor. "My decision to be a living donor was really a very small tribute to all the heroes who check the box," Katie says. "I knew I wanted to donate but had no idea whom it would go to."

She found out on Dec. 31, just a day after donating one of her kidneys to Abby. "There's really no words," Abby says of meeting her donor. "She walked into the room, and I didn't even know what to say. It was awesome." Katie agrees, calling it "a life-changing moment." Later that day, Renita stopped in to visit Abby and met Katie as well. "That was a day I think we will always remember," Katie says.

Not long after that meeting, Renita learned she was a match for a stranger in Illinois who'd been on the transplant list for five years. And in February, Renita put an end to that wait by donating one of her kidneys. "Her husband looked at me and said, 'Why'd you do this? Why would you do this?'" Renita tells KAAL. Her simple answer? "Because I could, and because it was the right thing to do."

You can learn more about becoming a living donor here and here. You can see Abby, Katie and Renita reunite here. Then donate a comment or two below before using the handy social media tools to share this story with others.