Largest donor chain in Southeast saves 13 lives

More than one dozen life saving generous gifts made history this week. UAB was the site of the largest non-directed donor chain ever performed in a single center in the Southeast. Donors and organ recipients became part of the "pair share" program at UAB.

After fighting cancer and failed kidneys, Ellen Herron said she didn't have much hope left.

"I had just turned 55, had three grand babies and they're really little and I'm thinking - I've got to be around to watch them grow up," Herron said.

Her daughter Valerie - and her friend shelly who lives in Huntsville hoped to donate, but they weren't a match. The only way for Ellen to quickly get a kidney was through the UAB Pair Share program - an organization connecting donors and patients needing transplants.

"I'm going to give to someone I don't know and in exchange, more than one person benefits," Shelly Gary, a donor said.

On December 5th, Ellen received a transplant the next day Shelly donated hers.

"We got a whole new family out of it and several and that was just amazing," Gary said.

Shelly's kidney went to Thomas Blankenship - a husband, a father, and grandfather.

"It's nothing short of amazing, nothing short of miraculous in my opinion," Herron said. "I look at it like a big puzzle and all the little pieces fit together."

"That to me is just incredible," Gary said. "Being able to help Ellen and give her time with her children and her family and this whole thing - you can't explain it. Joy."

In the largest non-directed donor chain in the Southeast, 13 families and counting now have a chance to continue living.

"I just thank God every day I have another chance to live," Herron said.

The most recent transplant was performed last week - during the Winter storm. 15 year old Ryane Burns got that donation. {}Her father plans to continue the chain, by donating a kidney next month.