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Kidney Exchange Connects Strangers Through Life-Saving Donations

Child Kidney Transplant Patient

How do you pay it forward? One Good Samaritan was inspired to help a stranger- any stranger. In the end it wasn't one life he saved—but three. His kind gesture completed a kidney donation chain between patients at University of Utah Hospital and Primary Children's Hospital. What makes this medical procedure so incredible is journey that led them to each other.

Surgeons from both hospitals performed six surgeries and three transplants in just two days.

"I'm just some guy off the street that had a weird idea that I would go in and see if I could help somebody other than myself," Ted Bartling said. "I just knew there was someone that matched." Bartling is the Good Samaritan who stepped up to donate his kidney. He says it was something he has wanted to do for 15 yearsHis gift began the chain reaction that resulted in three people receiving a kidney.

Included in the chain were 2-year-old Beckham Fershtut, Brandy Jess and Juan Romero- who now have a new lease on life, thanks to people they had never met before.

"The kidney was something that we personally couldn't give to him, and I am so grateful to them that will step up and come to give him something that we couldn't," Hayley Fershtut said, mother of Beckham Fershtut.

Beckham's father Ari was originally going to donate a kidney to his son, but they were not a match. After enrolling in the paired exchange, the toddler received Kristy Buffington's kidney, a mother from Twin Falls, Idaho.

Buffington wanted to donate her kidney to her friend Brandy Jess, but a last-minute test showed they were not compatible.

That's when Ted Bartling's kindness came into play at the right time.

Bartling was a perfect match for Jess. She received Bartling's kidney, allowing for Ari Fershtut to donate his kidney to Juan Romero who had been waiting for a kidney for three years while on dialysis. Both men had the same rare B-negative blood type.

"I don't see myself as a hero," Buffington said of her decision to donate. "I just thought if I could do it, why not?"

Bartling expressed similar sentiments.

"I think we just come to a point in life where we have to do more than the small things to help each other," he said.

Learn more about live-saving transplants at the University of Utah Transplant program.