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Gift of life comes back 10 years later

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Ten years ago the Milliard family suffered a great loss: the death of their son, Kalem, due to an ATV accident. The family was generous in donating his organs to others who could not live without this gift of life. Kalem’s pancreas went to a teen in Petaluma CA who was dying of a failed pancreas, destroyed by diabetes.

On Friday morning, July 11, Kalem’s father, Bill Millard received a kidney offered from a living donor. Janice MacKinnon is the amazing person offering one of her kidneys to a non-family member. However, she would tell you that Bill is part of her extended family. Janice is the mother of the young man whose life was saved in December 2004 when he received Kalem's pancreas.

Normally organ transplant families don’t meet or know the name of the person who died and allowed another to live. However both families wanted to meet and kept in touch. In fact, every year at Christmas the MacKinnons have a tree lighting ceremony to honor the Millards and their son, Kalem. Last year she told Bill of her intended gift, a kidney.

Bill’s kidneys had been failing due to unmanageable diabetes and he was destined to be on hooked up to a dialysis machine every night until a kidney became available. Then he got word of an extraordinary gift.

While non-family members typically have less than a 50 percent chance of being a match Janice wanted to be tested and believed this gift was meant to happen.

“It’s hard for me to wrap my head around it. We never thought that donating my son's organs 10 years ago would today be saving my life," said Millard at a press conference July 10 at California Pacific Medical Center where the transplant took place.

“I think this is an extraordinary way to give back a gift that you have received,” said CPMC transplant surgeon Dr. Janet Bellingham. “But I’ve never heard of this before…I’ve never heard of this before.” (Referring the unique donor relationship)

Dr. William Bry, another CPMC transplant surgeon, added that it is ironic that diabetes was the disease that linked the families. He added that in his opinion diabetes is the leading cause of kidney transplants.

The fact that Janice would be a match to the man who saved her son has both families thinking this was meant to be. And it’s why she doesn’t fear the operation. “We are where we’re at for whatever reason-and it’s gonna be fine,” said McKinnon. “’Cause it’s unbelievable that we’re even here, I think. Yeah.”

You can view the press conference tape here.

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