Legacy in the News: Portland Police Officer and Legacy Transplant Services Patient Donates Kidney to Stranger

KOIN Local 6, KPTV Fox 12

March 21, 2013

Legacy Transplant Services patient Elizabeth Willard joined the Portland Police Force because she felt inspired to help people. But one act of helping went way beyond the call of duty. Willard donated a kidney to a perfect stranger through the Legacy Good Samaritan-based transplant program.

"Most people are shocked and they ask me if it's someone I know," she said before the surgery. "I have absolutely no clue. I will not see them, hear from them, meet them, anything. They're going to be in the next operating room because the kidney will go straight from me to them."

Being an anonymous kidney donor is an idea that people are still getting used to, said Dr. Bill Bennett, Medical Director of Transplantation and Director of Renal Research, at Legacy Health. Legacy Transplant Services began doing kidney transplants in 1999, and reached a medical milestone last month completing its 1,000th transplant. However, only 16 of those have come from non-directed, or anonymous, living donors.

"In the late '90s it became obvious you didn't have to be a relative (to be a donor)," Bennett said. "You could be anybody if your blood types matched and you were very healthy."

Willard donated her kidney in January. Her surgery took a few hours and went well. Willard recovered at home for about five weeks and said she's now feeling great.

"I'm a little lumpy, but nothing that will keep me out of Miss America," she laughed," besides all the other things that would."

She still doesn't want to know the woman who received her kidney, just in case things did not go well.

"Right now, in my mind, she's still perfect. The surgery went great and she's now becoming a marathon runner and going to cure cancer."

Officials at Legacy Good Samaritan said the surgery has a 98 percent survival rate.

Willard now believes giving her kidney to a stranger feels more right than ever.

"I see it as what I'm supposed to do. If you have and others don't and you can give, you give," she said. "I know that when I go I've done all that I could. It's a sense of peace."

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