Local Life Saved By Organ Exchange - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Local Life Saved By Organ Exchange

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More than 120 thousand people in the United States are on the waiting list right now for a life-saving organ transplant. And although millions of people are registered donors, about one third of the people on that list will die waiting for an organ.

It's a scary situation that Darrel Ellis knows all too well. He experienced the worry and stress of kidney failure, and being put on the waiting list. But just a few months ago he was saved by a very unusual circumstance.

"I felt like I had the flu all the time," Ellis said. "I just wasn't feeling good."

17 friends and family members came forward to see if they were matches to donate a kidney, but nobody was. That's when Ellis' bowling buddy, Steve Saunders, took his act of love one step further.

"He just saw how sick I was getting and said, 'You know, I'll do anything I can do to help you get better, because you deserve it.' And you know, that's a pretty emotional thing to hear," Ellis said.
Saunders offered to donate his kidney to a complete stranger, starting a chain of donations involving six other people.

"You just slowly see that, even bowling, he couldn't keep up with the three games every time," Saunders said. "I even tried to say, like, 'Am I nervous about this? Is this a good decision?' But everything just felt right."

Three other donors, who also weren't matches for their loved ones, completed the chain with with Ellis and Saunders. That's four people, donating to four strangers, saving four lives.

And Ellis' life would never be the same.

"I actually laid in my bed and cried about it," Ellis said, of the moment he woke up in the hospital post-surgery. "It was amazing to finally, for the first time, know what it was like to feel like this, and this is how I was supposed to feel my whole life."

"The best moment was, I was in my room recovering on the second day. He walked into my room, and that was it," Saunders said. "You could tell on his face that he was already, even with all the IVs and such, he was like a different person."

Some things, like their bowling rivalry, will never change. And the only split these two will see is on the lanes. But outside the alley, everything looks a little different now.

"The reward that you get from it is amazing," Saunders said. "The way you look at life differently after going through something like that is amazing."

Ellis agreed, adding: "It is truly the gift of life."

Donation activists are asking for everyone to consider being a registered organ donor. For more information, or to register, click here.

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