MILWAUKEE (AP) — A Wisconsin woman who donated a kidney to a stranger has made a film about her experience to encourage others, particularly minorities, to also donate.
Natasha Coe, 33, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she decided to donate a kidney after her ex-boyfriend’s uncle died after kidney failure. She posted an offer on Facebook in February 2010.
“After reading an article and recent events that have happened, I think I may donate one of my kidneys,” she wrote. “If anyone knows someone on the waiting list for one, let me know ... And I’m serious (for once).”
A few hours later, she heard from a former high school classmate, whose stepmother needed a kidney. Debbie Will, 60, of Greenfield, suffered kidney failure after her second child was born in the 1970s. Her sister donated a kidney to her in 1979, but it gave out in March 2008. Will had survived by having dialysis five days a week, for three to four hours at a time.
A quick blood test showed that Coe and Will were a match, both B positive. But the donation didn’t happen right away, as there were some medical complications.
When the surgery was finally set, Coe showed up with a film crew.
“I was moved so much by hearing Debbie’s story,” she said. “I wanted to be able to do something more. What if we film it?”
Coe, who is biracial, said she also thought a documentary could help raise awareness among minorities. Twenty-nine percent of the people on waiting lists for an organ donation are African-Americans.
Organ recipients and donors do not have to be of the same race or ethnicity, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Coe’s friend, photographer and wardrobe stylist Sheila Teruty, served as the film’s director. She said the toughest part of the project was seeing her friend in pain.
“I felt like we were intruding and she needed rest,” Teruty said. “It felt really wrong (to film). We were just doing our job and trying to get the story.”
The half-hour documentary “Does Anybody Need a Kidney?” will be shown April 20 at a wellness fair at Running Rebels Community Organization, the nonprofit where Coe works with at-risk youths, in Milwaukee. A preview has been posted on YouTube.
Will said that whenever she tells someone how she got her new kidney, they are surprised — as she was — by the gift from a stranger.
“I thought it was unusual someone would do something like this,” she said.
For her part, Coe said she was overwhelmed by the gratitude Will showed.
“I didn’t do this for praise,” she said. “I did it because she needed it.”
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.