“To watch Camille run around like a perfectly healthy five-year-old was an experience I’ll never forget,” says Kasci Bedessem. “Knowing she can do that because of me is an incredible feeling.”
Kasci decided to participate in a donor chain in April 2011, but she didn’t realize the sense of urgency for a special little girl who had lost most of her kidney function in 2009.
“I had never met Camille,” Kasci says. “I knew nothing about her, not even her name, when I chose to donate. All I knew was that I had two healthy kidneys and could live with just one. I could give the other one to someone who needed it. I could save a life.”
Camille was born prematurely, about 17 weeks early, in October 2007. She spent five months in the pediatric ICU before being allowed to go home. Her kidney function was at 25 percent, and she needed to receive oxygen from that point on.
By her second birthday, Camille’s body had outgrown her kidney’s ability to adequately perform. Her kidney function had fallen to 15 percent, and her doctors put her on the kidney transplant waiting list.
Camille’s father tried to qualify as a donor, but he was rejected. Her mother also underwent the rigorous testing process and was deemed a suitable donor. But she was incompatible with Camille.
Although Camille’s mother was not a match for her daughter, she was potentially compatible with another person waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant. That meant she could be part of a kidney donor chain where her kidney would be given to someone in need and, in return, Camille would get a kidney that matched her needs
Camille and her mom were listed on the National Kidney Registry, which looks at information nationwide to match donors and recipients, in July 2010. In April 2011, a matching donor for Camille was found, meeting a host of requirements, and a chain of nine donors and nine recipients was painstakingly organized. But Camille caught a cold, and the surgeries were postponed.
A week later, eight of the nine surgeries were scheduled. The lone exception was Camille’s. Her surgery eventually was scheduled in June 2011. The donor for the three-year-old? Kasci Bedessem, an altruistic living donor.
Kasci was thrilled to meet Camille and her family in summer 2013 and see her full of life and ready to start kindergarten in the fall as a normal, happy, healthy girl. “It’s very likely that Camille never would have gotten her kidney if I hadn’t decided to be a living donor,” Kasci says. “I saved her life, and I indirectly saved the lives of the eight other transplant recipients in the donor chain. I am proud and privileged to be someone’s hero.”
Other people can be heroes, too, as registered organ and tissue donors.