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July 24, 2015
by Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

A Chain of Love : Changing People's Lives through Kidney Donation to Strangers

July 24, 2015 05:55 by Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

According to the National Kidney Foundation, it is estimated that about 12 people die each day while waiting for a kidney transplant. In 2014 alone, about 4,270 patients died while waiting. The average wait time for a patient to receive a transplant is approximately 3.6 years which may vary depending on a number of variables such as health,compatibility, and availability of organs.

These statistics are both alarming and discouraging for the patients as well as their families who are desperately praying for a miracle to happen every day. Perhaps their prayers have been heard and are finally being answered by the inception of the National Kidney Registry’s paired exchange program.

National Kidney Registry : Paired Exchange Program

The program was created and founded by Garet Hil in who was inspired to make a difference when his daughter needed a kidney in 2007 when she was 10 years old. Built on altruism, Hil’s program has received an outpouring of support nationwide thus far, steadily growing in the number of organ donors and recipients that’s ultimately changing people’s lives across the country (Hart, 2015).

The chain started with the first altruistic donor, Kathy Hart, a 48-year-old attorney from Minneapolis. When she learned that her yoga instructor’s son needed a kidney transplant, she offered to donate but was not a match for him and subsequently decided to join the National Kidney Registry. The seed of kindness she’s planted has since led to 250 other good Samaritans donating their kidneys to strangers across the country. To date, 68 lives have been changed and 34 kidneys have been exchanged between 26 different hospitals over the course of just three months (ibid.).

How It Works

When friends and loved ones are not a good match for a patient in need of a kidney transplant, one member of the support group can agree to donate a kidney to a stranger. In order to receive a kidney from a stranger, each recipient must have someone in their life willing to donate a kidney on their behalf to someone on the Registry. In the interim, other potential donors and recipients are scanned to locate possible matches around the country.

There is, however, one caveat to this whole process. For the chain to sustain and keep going, unforeseen events (i.e., the donor backing out or the recipient’s health condition deteriorating) cannot be factored in as they will cause the chain to collapse immediately (ibid.).

Given that over 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month and someone is being added to the list every 14 minutes (National Kidney Foundation, 2015), the Registry’s paired exchange program is offering hope with a more promising outlook on the dire situation.

Good Samaritan’s Invitation

In this era of growing violence, hate crimes, and injustice all around the globe, this chain of love is serving as a potent reminder that there’s still much goodness in this world to be cultivated further.

The stories of the altruistic heroes aforementioned are exemplary of this reassuring truth. Perhaps, their stories are also extending the communal invitation, calling each and every person living on this planet to be the agent of change by partaking in an act of kindness of some sort.

When connected in the spirit of a good Samaritan, no one may be construed as strangers and only the sense of oneness can exist to do many wonders for the humanity.


Hart, K. April 14, 2015. Woman Donated Kidney to Complete Stranger, Starts US's Longest Multi-Hospital Donor Chain. Retrieved from

Organ Donation and Transplantation Statistics - The National Kidney Foundation. 2015. Retrieved from

About the Author

Dr. Agnes Oh Dr. Agnes Oh, PsyD, LMFT

Dr. Agnes Oh is dually licensed as a clinical psychologist and a marriage and family therapist in the state of California, fully committed to helping each individual to maximize his/her intrinsic potential to heal, grow, and thrive.

Dr. Agnes Oh has a clinical practice in Glendale, CA

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