April is "Donate Life Month," and for one local mom who recently underwent a kidney transplant, the surgery was a life-saver -- not just for her but for a complete stranger, too.
Carolyn Turton, a Santa Maria resident, has been home for about four weeks now after undergoing long-awaited kidney surgery.
She says her kidney problems started when she was a baby and throughout the years only worsened.
"I was looking at dialysis, is where I was at, and they told me that I needed to start looking at that and the transplant,” Turton said.
Her son, Jason, quickly stepped up to donate but it turned out he wasn't a match. That’s when their doctors told them about the kidney paired donation program.
"I am willing to donate a kidney for my mom but I don't match her. If there is someone else in the same situation and they match my mom and I match them, then it'll work,” Jason explained.
A month later it did work out. They got the call and were told they had found a match.
"I said, 'are you serious?' It's still kind of emotional because it means that my mom was going to get a kidney,” Jason said.
On March 23, Jason and Carolyn had surgery at Sutter's California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.
A complete stranger 400 miles away named Brittin was able to donate her kidney to Carolyn and her father, Jeff, received Jason's kidney.
On Thursday, for the first time, they all met virtually to thank one another.
“Without her kidney, my mom would be waiting nine years at least and without her kidney, same with her dad,” Jason said.
It's resulted in a special bond between the four.
"It's really hard to comprehend something like that, that they were able to do that and so I guess we have new family members now,” Carolyn said.
But the good news didn't stop there. Soon after the surgery, the die-hard LA Dodgers fans even received a get-well message from their favorite player, Justin Turner.
The two hope to go to Dodger Stadium after they fully recover later in the year.
“Looking forward to doing that again and I am really happy that she is going to get to be able to do that with me,” Jason said.
More than 90,000 Americans are on a waiting list for a kidney transplant.
National Donate Life Month helps to encourage Americans to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors [donatelife.net] and to honor those that have saved lives through the gift of donation. For information on becoming a donor, visit Donate Life or click here [donatelife.net].
For additional information on Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center’s (CPMC) Kidney, Paired Donation Program click here [sutterhealth.org].