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Des Moines Kidney Donor Meets Recipient One Year After Transplant

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Last week a Des Moines woman traveled nearly 1,500 miles to meet the man whose life she saved.

Des Moines resident Katie Elsbernd donated her kidney to a stranger in 2018. The man turned out to be a 55-year-old retired police officer named Arthur Calvert.

Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Elsbernd made a surprise visit to San Diego to meet Calvert.

“I knew someone was my best match, but I didn’t know it was Arthur until later," Elsbernd said. “For the last four years he was on dialysis. He had been really drained."

A year after, Elsbernd donated her kidney to Calvert. KNSD, a Channel 13 NBC affiliate in San Diego, captured the surprise reunion.

“It was amazing. I was really scared he would be sick. He had lots of energy and he was really happy," Elsbernd said.

Elsbernd and Calvert were matched through a national kidney registry called a paired exchange.

“If you donate on behalf of your loved one, they could get a kidney from someone else," Elsbernd said.

That someone else is Elsbernd's older sister, Anne.

“When someone that close to you is about to die, you do anything," Elsbernd said.

The donation not only saved Calvert's life, but it also saved her sister's life.

“My sister is doing great. She was so sick before. She looked like death and now she is happy again," Elsbernd said.

An Iowa Methodist transplant surgeon says Calvert and Anne were on a national list along with more than 100,000 others.

“Nationally, there is a massive shortage of organs,” Qasim Chaudhry said. “There are over half a million people on dialysis. We only have 100,000 on the list, so 400,000 people will never get a transplant."

Elsbernd is glad she was able to save two lives.

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