MINNEAPOLIS - A meeting between six people in the Twin Cities Sunday night was made possible by a rare chain of three kidney transplants which included six surgeries, two in South Dakota and the other four in Minnesota.
"I got the rare blood type O-negative so the wait is even longer," explained Bruce Medema, who probably would have waited longer than a year and a half for a kidney, but his brother, Brett, stepped in to help.
"Nice to see the person I donated to, a little shy," smiled Brett.
37 year-old Brett Medema donated his kidney to 8-year-old Zachary Elsenpeter.
"Finding this kidney was a needle in a haystack, they had told us that we needed to find Zach's twin," explained Zach's mother Stacey Elsenpeter
Zach received his kidney thanks in part to his mother, who gave hers to a teen from Chisago City.
"I found out I donated my kidney to a child which is interesting, they said there was a twist to the whole story but I didn't know I donated to a child," said Elsenpeter.
It's all part of what has become a six person chain of donations.
Sunday night they all met for the first time at a National Kidney Foundation fundraiser.
The "kidney paired exchanges" started 12 years ago in Minnesota.
The idea is to find more accurate matches and to find them more quickly.
"And then you get a bunch of transplants done," said Dr. Ty Dunn. "So the chain folds in on itself and you have three pairs and everybody donates and everybody gets a transplant three and three.
It starts with one to become three donors, three receivers and three lives saved.
The chain involved a combination of hospitals including Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's hospital both involved with a chain for the first time.
The University of Minnesota Medical Center at Fairview was also involved in the chain for now the 36th time.
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