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"Do it, because you never know who you're going to help" Woman donates kidney to stranger

Michele says it's not about her, but who she helped
Posted at 6:10 PM, Aug 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-01 18:16:33-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. — "I mean you don't need two kidneys, so you might as well give one away and help someone else out," Michell Hamilton said.

Michelle decided to do just that - undergoing two hours of surgery at ECMC to give a complete stranger her kidney.

"Going in I thought it was going to be super long and tough, but it really wasn't any of that at all," Michelle said.

Right now there are more than 100,000 people in the United States in need of transplants, waiting for people like Michelle.

"It's really a devastating disease for them. They're still living, but it's not a good quality of life," Dr. Liise Kayler, Division Chief and Program Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at ECMC, said.

Michelle is a teacher at Martin Road Elementary in Lackawanna. She decided to donate after finding out another teacher needed a transplant. Michelle wasn't a match for her, but stayed on the list for someone else.

"It's about the person who is hopefully going to be able to lead a better life," Michelle said.

"It does offer them the chance to get back to their most normal life," said Dr. Kayler.

Donors name hang on a wall in the transplant center at ECMC - a list Michelle hopes will grow by sharing her experience.

"Do it, because you never know who you're going to help," Michelle said.

ECMC has the shortest wait times for kidney transplants in the country. It's because of an exchange or chain system they have set up that depends on people like Michelle. If a donor does not match the person they intend to give to, they can arrange for another recipient. Then, they are able to find another donor for the other patient.

"They are extremely important. But not necessarily to this program, they're important for the recipient of the transplant," Dr. Kayler said.

Michelle's name will soon appear on the wall of donors and recipients, but to her, it's not about the recognition.

"It's not about the pat on the back for me. It's not about any of that. It's just about knowing that they're going to be able to lead a happy and healthy life because of something that I helped them do," said Michelle.

And in the process, this teacher created the lesson plan of a lifetime.

"I want them to see, you know, you can help people in lots of different ways - whether it's giving a kidney or just saying a kind word," Michelle said.

If Michelle's story inspired you to look into kidney donation, check out ECMC's transplantation service.