The Gift Of Life This Christmas For Three Transplant Recipients

An organ transplant believed to be the first of its kind in the Carolinas is giving three people and their loved ones the gift of life just in time for the holidays.

Three people in Eastern Carolina needed kidneys and each had a willing kidney donor who wasn't compatible with them. But doctors discovered that if each donor switched who they were giving their kidney to, all three would have matches.

Pitt County Memorial Hospital doctors say they successfully performed what's believed to be the first six-person kidney exchange in the Carolinas last week. Thursday the recipients met their kidney donors for the first time.

The donors say they're glad they were able to help someone and have their loved one helped, too. The recipients - Lynnette Collins of Jamesville, Joe Kalinowski of Greenville and Stephanie Richardson of Hollister -say they feel like they have a new lease on life.

James Collins wanted to donate his kidney to his mom but it wasn't a match, so it went to Richardson. Richardson's mom Darlene donated her kidney to Kalinowski. Kalinowski's friend from Tennessee donated his to Lynnette Collins. Collins says, "This was the perfect time of year that this could have happened. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, this too is just like birth within itself. It's like giving me new life all over again."

Dr. Robert Harland says he's hoping more kidney exchanges like this will occur in the future, saying the success rates for living donor kidney transplants are higher than those coming from deceased donors.

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