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Seattle kidney chain changes 8 lives: 'It's the gift of life'

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KOMO

SEATTLE -- It took less than 24 hours to connect the links of a kidney chain that started and ended in Seattle.

"It definitely came out of nowhere. We weren't expecting anything like this," Nathan West said of his rare kidney disorder. "Over the course of a little over a year, it developed to where I needed to go on dialysis."

West's life was about to change dramatically for the better, thanks to a donated kidney from the other side of the country. But to truly appreciate what was about to happen, you have to go back about 24 hours, to Ashlee Denherder.

She wanted to give one of her kidneys to a friend with kidney disease, named Larry.

"We weren't a match and we knew that right away," she said.

Larry received a kidney from a different donor and is doing well. So Denherder gave hers to a stranger.

"I hope she gets her life back," Denherder said of the recipient. "I hope that whatever her story is, that what Larry has gotten out of his kidney, I hope that mine does that for her."

After surgeons removed Ashlee's kidney, it was quickly boxed and on its way to a woman in Pennsylvania, where a donor gave a kidney to someone in Oklahoma. Along with the Oklahoma recipient, there was another donor, whose kidney was delivered to Massachusetts. And a donor there gave a kidney to Nathan West, back in Seattle.

West's transplant surgery was relatively quick. Surgeons connected the donated organ to blood vessels, and it came to life.

"It's getting pink. that means there's good perfusion in there," the surgeon said. When West's disease was first discovered, he had just 30 percent kidney function left.

"It goes up to 70 to 75 percent of the original function," said Dr. Nidyanandh Vadivel, Medical Director of the Living Kidney Donor Program at Swedish Medical Center. "And for a healthy person that function is sufficient to lead a normal life for the rest of their lifetime."

Donor Denherder will also do well with her single remaining kidney. And despite some pain in recovery, she says she's feels incredibly good being the first link in a kidney chain.

"It's the gift of life and you can't give anything greater than the gift of life," she said.

While some kidney chains have grown to hundreds of surgeries, most often they are smaller. This is the first four state chain where Swedish has been involved. If you are interested in being a donor, or you want more information, visit Swedish Medical Center's Organ Transplant Center.

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