Saving the life of a stranger

HOUSTON Brenda Chapa of Wharton struggled for words as she met the man from Georgia who gave her a kidney last week. We told you their story last week. Two strangers were brought together by one life-saving gesture.

Carey Barrett came to Houston from Atlanta to give his kidney to a stranger and on Thursday, he met her. Chapa, the Texas woman who received Carey's kidney, struggled to say thank you to the stranger who saved her life.

"I don't have enough words," she said. "I believe in angels and I finally met one."

Chapa asked the question so many others have asked. Why did he do it?

"Because I can," he replied.

Barrett says his wife, Monique, who is a therapist for special needs children, made him aware of giving back. His decision was just in time for Chapa.

"After 10 donors, finally finding someone in Georgia , who would think, of all places," she said.

Eight days ago, Chapa and Barrett had simultaneous surgeries at Memorial Hermann Hospital. Barrett 's gift is the beginning in what's being called a "domino" transplant.

"This is the first time we've had an altruistic donor for a domino transplant where the altruistic donor gives first, and then the incompatible donor for our patient will be linked with a computer with someone else," said transplant surgeon Dr. Charles van Buren with UT Houston.

The last part of the equation is Chapa's ex-sister-in-law. She's agreed to be her donor. She's already been tested and now they're simply waiting for a good match.

"It's the pay it forward aspect of the program which really attracted me," said Barrett. "You're not just giving one kidney, you're giving 10- 20-30, more."

Domino transplants make more kidneys available and surgeons say the kidney actually works better because it's only out of the body 45 minutes. Usually they remove the kidney laproscopically. But Barrett had to have a bigger incision.

"It hurts more than I thought it would hurt," he said. "But no regrets. It was well worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."

Surgeons says we can expect to see many more domino transplants in Houston and around the country. Now, more than 70,000 people are awaiting a kidney transplant.

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