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(NECN/NBC: Doreen Gentzler)- A Maryland woman saved two lives by donating just one kidney.
When Julie Stitt agreed to donate a kidney to her husband, she had no idea it would save her father's life too.
Her husband, Chuck Stitt had been dealing with kidney failure for years. He already had two failed transplants when doctors told him a kidney from a living donor could give him back his health.
"After the second transplant didn't work, I wasn't going to go back for a third and she said ‘yes you are,’" shared Chuck Stitt.
But they weren't a match. However, doctors at the University of Maryland medical center said they could enter a paired exchange program. Julie would donate her kidney to a stranger and Chuck would be guaranteed to get one from someone else who was donating on behalf of their own loved one.
He underwent his transplant last December.
"It started working while I was still in the operating room. It started working immediately," Stitt expressed. "It lifted a big weight off my shoulders that he would be feeling better than he had in years."
But just as Julie was getting ready to complete her part of the deal, she found out that her father, Richard Kern, was suffering from renal failure and he too needed a new kidney.
She was actually a match for her father, but doctors told her it was too late and that she was obligated to donate to someone else.
"It’s a contract when we start these paired kidney exchanges and these kinds of swaps. So her commitment to donating as part of this chain was something she had made," said Dr. Rolf Barth, the transplant surgeon.
Transplant surgeon Dr. Barth told them that the only way Julie’s father could get her kidney would be by coincidence; if he happened to be at the top of the transplant list at the same time she was scheduled to donate.
The chance of that happening is about one in a million.
"He wasn't at the top. He was a few down. But he was close," said Julie Stitt.
On June 15, 2013, just as Julie was getting ready for her surgery, her father was called in too.
"This chain was wrapping up and as you kind of have these two trains moving at different speeds, suddenly they kind of enter the station at the similar time," explained Dr. Barth. "It didn't hit me until I was taking her kidney out and was bringing it into the room next door for transplantation and we all realized that this was her father receiving her kidney."