DALLAS (CBS11) – Two strangers met Monday afternoon, wrapping themselves in a warm embrace.
“You’re like an angel to me,” Valene Escobedo told Susana Margraf.
Their tearful introduction came nine months after the kidney transplant that changed Escobedo’s life.
“I had a lot of family member think I probably wasn’t going to make it,” she said.
Escobedo was on dialysis, struggling with kidney disease.
Margraf had recently lost her father to it.
Unable to prevent his death, she began to do research on the more than 100,000 others still waiting for a kidney transplant.
“I thought this is my chance to make a difference. This is my chance to make the world a better place,” she said.
So, Margraf called UT Southwestern’s Transplant Clinic.
“I told them, ‘I want to donate a kidney’. The first question was, ‘Okay, sure. Who are you donating to?’ And, I said, ‘I don’t know. You tell me’. And, there was a bit of silence on the phone and like, ‘Okay. Umm,” she recalls.
While thousands of kidneys are transplanted every year, most come from deceased donors. Living donors are most often family members, although sometimes friends will donate, too.
Very rarely do hospitals find a healthy volunteer willing to give a kidney to a complete stranger.
“She said, ‘if I had another kidney to give, I’d give it.’ It’s rare to have that kind of person in the world,” said Dr. Justin Parekh, the surgeon who removed Margraf’s kidney, as his voice wavered with emotion.
Margraf asked Escobedo for only one thing in exchange for the generous gift that she “pay it forward.”
Escobedo now plans to return to college to finish her degree and become a psychologist.
“I’ve always wanted to help people,” she said.
Margraf, meanwhile, says life with one less kidney is pretty much the same.
“I had it in my hands to help another human being,” she explains. “I just know it was the right thing to do.”