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Church member's kidney donation saves friend - Healthwatch 16

The two friends are sharing their story to encourage more people to become living donors.

SHAMOKIN, Pa. — Some longtime friends from Northumberland County now consider themselves family after one donated a kidney to the other. 

Ellard Neiman, 48, of Shamokin, started feeling sick in 2018. Ellard, a husband, and father, went through a series of tests.

"The doctor looks right at me and goes, 'So, your kidneys are failing. You have one that's already died off about ten years ago,'" Ellard recalled.

Ellard was told he needed a kidney transplant and spent the next three years on dialysis.

"Three times a week, four hours a day."

He had a three- to five-year wait on the kidney transplant list. There was a one in 100,000 chance of finding a donor match.

That's where Chelsea Turner of Coal Township comes in.

"Obviously, the risk is there, but it's a greater reward to see someone thriving after such a thing," Chelsea said.

The Turner and Neiman families have been friends for nearly ten years after meeting at church. Chelsea saw firsthand what her friend was going through and decided to see if she could donate a kidney.

In January of last year, Ellard got the phone call from Geisinger that changed his life. There was a perfect match.

"I said, 'Who was it?' They couldn't tell me because of HIPAA. Then she sends me a text and goes, 'You're getting my kidney.'"

On March 25 of last year, the two had their surgeries. Just over one year later, they are both living healthy lives.

"To know that you changed someone's livelihood and changed someone's family and kept their family alive and thriving, it changes you. It definitely changes you for the better," said Chelsea.

The two families now have a special bond. Ellard says there are not enough words to thank his friend.

"All the money in the world, I could never repay her for it."

More information on Geisinger's kidney transplant program is available here.

Watch more Healthwatch 16 stories on YouTube.  

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