Paying it forward

Tue, 12/23/2008 - 5:01pm
By: Michael Boylan

F’ville man donates his kidney — to a stranger

Paying it forward

Never let them tell you that television is a vast wasteland with no value.

Fayetteville resident Carey Barrett, 42, was watching ABC World News Tonight over a year ago when he saw a story that stirred something inside of him.

The piece was on a program called “Never Ending Altruistic Donor” that pairs people who need a kidney transplant with people willing to donate a kidney to someone in need.

It is aimed at helping people who have friends or family members willing to donate a kidney but aren’t good matches for the person in need. These people enter a database and when their friend or family member gets a kidney from a willing donor, they will in turn give a kidney to someone they do match well with, and so on.

Barrett, who was watching his mother struggle with cancer at the time, was moved by the piece and wanted a way to help someone.

“I’m a very lucky guy with a very healthy family and I just wanted to help somebody, somehow,” said Barrett. “This was a great way to have an impact.”

Barrett flew to Toledo and met with Dr. Michael Reese, who started the program. After a battery of tests last January making sure that he was healthy enough to donate a kidney, Barrett was entered on the list of acceptable altruistic donors. In August, he got the call telling them they had a match. Then it was just a matter of scheduling a time that was convenient for everyone.

“I was excited when I got the call,” Barrett said, adding that his wife, Monique, was skeptical at the beginning but eventually warmed up to the idea.

Healthy people can operate as usual with one kidney. In fact, because of all the screening that donors must go through, they typically lead longer lives because they have had every aspect of their health inspected.

Barrett did not meet the recipient when he got to Texas. He did meet with a media frenzy, though, as reporters from the Houston Chronicle and ABC World News, among others, were on the scene to document the procedure.

“The idea of donating a kidney to a complete stranger is unique,” said Barrett, who welcomed the attention as it got the message of the program out there.

“Because of the coverage, there have been a lot of inquiries into the program and donations,” said Barrett. Aside from being an altruistic donor, there are ways for people to help including financial donations that can help cover the travel expenses for the donor and his or her family, as well as donating blood, which is also a cause close to Barrett’s heart as he works for the American Red Cross.

“Without people donating blood, surgeries like this one could never occur,” Barrett said. He donates blood every 56 days, knowing that people undergoing surgeries may need to have emergency transfusions.

A week after the surgery, Barrett met Brenda, the woman who received his kidney, and the two stay in touch on a weekly basis with emails.

“She starts them off by telling me how our kidney is doing,” Barrett said.

Barrett stated that Brenda has a lot more freedom now, and he has seen how his donation has transformed not only her life, but the lives of her family, including her 14-year-old daughter, as well.

The surgery hasn’t slowed down Barrett at all. A regular at Southside Theatre Guild in Fairburn, he was just cast in their next show, “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” and he continues to teach ballroom dancing at Carla’s Dance Factory with his wife. They are also keeping busy raising their two children, Caleb, 17, and Alexia, 16.

All in all, it has been a good year for the native of Alberta, Canada. Barrett is healthy, he has given new life to a woman in Texas and one of her family members will now return the favor to another stranger somewhere else.

It is a good feeling to have, made all the more special during the holidays when those affected by this act of kindness realize that they are giving others the most precious gift of all.

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Submitted by MacTheKnife on Tue, 12/23/2008 - 7:50pm.

Mr. Barrett has shown that each of us has the capacity to improve the lives of others. Whether by being a blood donor, a volunteer at a homeless shelter, or just by giving clothes and items to the Goodwill, Potter's House, or United Kidney Foundation, I would encourage all of us to seek ways to make the lives of those around us better.

Mr. Barrett, I salute you and wish you all of the best for you and your family! You are an inspiration and an example for us all.

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Submitted by Shoebox on Tue, 12/23/2008 - 5:24pm.

Great true story of unselfishness!

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