First Mainer donates kidney to voucher program

Kristen Salway is the first person in Maine to donate her kidney as part of a voucher program to help get her friend's son a kidney later in life.

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- There's been a first at the Maine Transplant Center in Portland. A woman from Windham used her healthy kidney to help someone with kidney disease, without actually giving her organ to them.

When making sure that a candidate is right to be an organ donor, it's a long process that Kristen Salway started more than a year ago. When she found out that her co-worker, Tracy Neuville, was looking for a donor for her son Justin, Salway stepped up to help. Her blood type didn't match his, but luckily his dad's was. Salway still wanted to help, discovering the kidney voucher program. 

"Kristen donated in Justin's name and what that does is it essentially assures Justin that he's going to get a living kidney the next time he needs one," said Neuville.

Salway is the first person in Maine to donate her organ to the kidney voucher program. A three in a half hour surgery done by Dr. Juan Palma with the Maine Transplant Center. Salway's kidney was removed and placed into its new recipient in less than 24 hours. One person down, thousands more in need.

"The more voucher donors we can get up front, just imagine the 70,000 people waiting for kidneys," said Dr. Palma. "We can make a huge dent." 

Four weeks after surgery, Salway is feeling much better. Just a few days of fatigue and discomfort were experienced during the days following. She's relying on good Karma to help her co-worker's son get bumped up on the donor's list if he may ever need another kidney transplant.

"Just nice to know that you've really helped somebody and you've given something to somebody that's really truly special," said Salway.

"It's amazing and it's an overwhelming feeling to have somebody who doesn't know your son come forward and want to help," said Neuville.

Salway hasn't met the recipient of her kidney, but she did receive a letter from the person thanking her for the donation. 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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