Religion is a part of daily life for Susan Ahern, as is service to her Dallas church All Saints Catholic Church.
And for some reason she said, she always felt she wanted to become a kidney donor. Then one day she met another church member who needed help.
"I'm in a ministry here for those who are disabled and their caregivers, and Antonio came in for a visit -- because we help people with disabilities,” Ahern said. “And he told us a story of being on dialysis, at that time it was five years, three times a week for four hours a day.
Just a few days later Ahern called up, Aurelio and volunteered to be his kidney donor. They were both screened for the surgery but they were not a match.
Then someone told them about Paired Donation. Like most people, they’d never heard of it.
Paired Donation is when an incompatible donor/recipient pair, like Aurelio and Ahern, are matched with another incompatible pair.
Essentially, the donors are swapped.
That’s where Bobby Wesson, of Cedar Hill, and his son Adam, come in.
Wesson’s kidneys were on the decline for 25 years before it was finally time for a transplant. But his wife couldn’t be a donor and his son was not compatible.
Wesson hadn’t heard of Paired Donation, either, but he explains it this way:
“Everyone’s getting a live kidney,” Wesson said.
"The whole point of the program is that somebody gives a kidney, and in return for that kidney, somebody gets one," Ahern said. These “kidney chains” can stretch across cities and states.
And for some kidney patients, it can significantly speed up the wait for a transplant.
"Let's see, we signed up I think it was in May first of June (2012) and did the transplant the 15th of January (2013),” said Wesson, whose surgery was at Baylor Dallas. “Six months, seven months.”
Aurelio also recently received a transplant from another donor along the chain.
Wesson now calls Ahern his "Angel on Earth."
"She did more for me than you can ever know, not just keeping me off of dialysis or worse, but I've got an incredible family and friends, a grandson,” Wesson said. “So there's more to it than just improving quality of life."
Both Ahern and Wesson said they will be friends for life. And Wesson’s son, Adam, is excited about the future, also.
"He's excited about it,” said Wesson’s wife, Elizabeth. “He wants to meet the person he's donating to, and he says, ‘I just can't wait, I can't wait to meet the person I’m going to give my kidney to.'"
Alliance for Paired Donation: http://www.paireddonation.org/
Kidney Link: http://www.kidneylink.org/PairedDonationOverview.aspx
National Kidney Center: http://www.nationalkidneycenter.org/treatment-options/transplant/a-chain-of-hope/paired-donation/