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Kidney Donors and Recipients Meet Each Other in Holiday Reveal

Published December 27, 2017 | Updated February 2, 2018

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Three kidney transplant recipients and their donors were summoned to Duke on Dec. 22, 2017, for an emotional event. Each patient would finally meet the match who made their transplant surgery possible.

The surgeries took place in July 2017. Each of the patients needed time to heal from their surgeries. But once they were feeling better, a few began asking their Duke coordinators whether any of the other patients would be willing to meet, said Sarah Rusch, a living donor coordinator for the Duke Transplant Center.

The transplants had taken several months to coordinate, Rusch said.

Two of the recipients, Frankie Locklear and Steven Mullins, each had a family member who were willing to give a kidney. But these donors were not a good match, which sent coordinators into their records to see if they could find different donors for Frankie and Steven.

Just weeks later, a Raleigh woman came forward, offering to donate a kidney if Duke coordinators could identify a recipient. This altruistic donor, Julie, turned out to be the missing link in this six-person exchange.

Julie (who wants to be known only by her first name) turned out to be a great match for Frankie Locklear.

His sister Tammy Locklear had been willing to give a kidney, but she wasn’t a match. However, because Frankie was getting a transplant from another donor, Tammy agreed to donate her kidney to someone in need. It went to Steven Mullins, of Lebanon, Va.

Steven had been born with a kidney defect that worsened as he got into his late 20s. His mother Kathy Mullins had been willing to give her son a kidney, but wasn’t a match. Because her son would receive a kidney from another donor, Kathy agreed to donate as well. Her kidney went to an Iraq war veteran who had been on dialysis for six years, Russell Bridgers.

Each patient was emotional and grateful to meet their match at a reveal covered by news outlets across the Triangle and Southeast.

More information on becoming a living kidney donor is available on the Duke Health website.

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