Stranger donates kidney to save Loveland woman's life

DENVER- A Loveland woman has received a life-saving kidney donation. In January, 9NEWS brought you the story of Phyllis and Gary McCormack. Phyllis had polycystic kidney disease, which caused cysts to form on her kidneys.

Because PKD is genetic, her daughters couldn't donate. Gary has kidney stones and is diabetic, so he couldn't either. Phyllis needed an "altruistic" donor, someone who didn't even know her, but was willing to give her a kidney. To find that person, Gary became a walking billboard. Everywhere he went he wore a special sweatshirt, which read, "KIDNEY NEEDED Save a Live Please Call 970-667-7841."

After our story aired, the McCormack's, along with the American Transplant Foundation, received dozens of phone calls from people, who were interested in donating. Many of them were tested. A few months later, Phyllis got a phone call from University of Colorado Hospital.

"She said, "Phyllis, are you sitting down? And I said, 'no, but I will be.' And, she said, 'We have found a donor for you. Not only have we found a donor for you, its a perfect match,'" Phyllis said.

She immediately called Gary, who was at the gym.

"I said, 'I got my donor.' And he told all of his cronies there. I could hear all of the cheering going on," she said.

Several weeks later, with Gary and their daughters by her side, Phyllis underwent transplant surgery at University of Colorado Hospital. Three days later, she went home.

About a week after surgery, Phyllis met the woman, who gave her a kidney. They hugged for a long time and cried. However, the donor wants to remain publicly anonymous.

Off camera, Phyllis' donor told 9News. "I did this to help somebody, not to get on TV or have my name out there. I just wanted to help somebody," she said. "I could help her and I was the one, for whatever reason."

Phyllis' donor first thought about donating 15 years ago when someone she knew donated a kidney. While she was interested in donating, she realized it was not the right time. However, she never stopped thinking about being a donor someday.

She learned about Phyllis' search for a donor when she heard her story on 9NEWS. While she immediately wrote down the phone number for the American Transplant Foundation, it was several weeks before she called, underwent testing and found out she was a match.

She admits that she often thought to herself, 'What if someone I know, like my husband, children, other family member or friend, one day needs a kidney?" However, she decided not to focus on the "what if." Instead, she said, "I think I would have more regret knowing that I had the chance to help someone right now and I didn't act on it."

In the weeks after surgery, both women say they're doing well. Phyllis is following the advice of her doctors and done her best to avoid large crowds. Still, that hasn't stopped her from enjoying all the things she did before surgery. Phyllis has also met her friends for coffee and book club and even started exercising again.

So, what about Gary's famous sweatshirt? He plans to frame it after Phyllis washes it.

Phyllis and Gary want to thank everyone, who called them along with the American Transplant Foundation. They want to remind everyone that while Phyllis got a kidney, there are still hundreds of other Coloradans still waiting for a kidney or liver. You can donate both of those organs while you are still alive.

To find out how you can be a living donor, call the American Transplant Foundation at: 303-757-0959. You can also email Anastasia Darwish, executive director of the American Transplant Foundation:


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