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Donating life: Journey through a living kidney donation

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(WBNG) -- In the United States roughly 109,000 people are waiting on a life-saving organ. Over 80% of those in need are waiting for a Kidney.

Bonita Graham represents 1 in 4 living donors who are not biologically related to the organ recipient.

"It took me about a year and a half. I went through the National Kidney Registry, the NKR. They find donations and make chains and it's a full national thing."

Chain donation is a process that creates opportunities for many donor pairings, but usually requires someone like Bonita to get it started.

"With a chain, you need a non-directed donor to start the chain off, so with one person who doesn't have a recipient in mind, you can save a dozen lives by starting a chain and I was like, that seems like a lot of bang for my buck in terms of doing something good."

After over a year of many different tests, she went down to Washington D.C. for the procedure this past March.

"That moment I kind of had to be like oh wait I should actually make peace with the fact that I'm doing this and that was a big step."

For Bonita, there were a number of factors that aided in any hesitation.

The NKR provides 'kidney prioritization' to all NKR swap donors. That means should an NKR donor's remaining kidney ever fail, they will be prioritized in the NKR program to receive a living donor kidney.

The toughest part for Bonita was explaining what she was doing to her kids.

"My kids were really worried about me. The thing that fixed that was telling them that the recipient might have kids also and there was a very small chance that something bad would happen to me whereas if the recipient didn't get a kidney they could die and thinking about another kid who might lose a parent if I didn't do this really changed their minds."

While Bonita knows everyone's journey is different, for her, recovery was smooth.

In 2020 5,700 lives were saved through the generosity of living organ donors.

Bonita hopes to one day be able to meet her organ recipient and encourages others to give the gift of life.

To view our last story about organ donation through the eyes of a local family click here.

For more information about the National Kidney Registry click here.

To register as an organ donor through Donate Life click here. Or -

Kaitlin Pearson

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