Sisters' tribute to late dad sparks kidney donation chain

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two sisters' tribute to their late father sparked a chain of transplants that changed eight other lives.

There were hugs, tears and lots of smiles at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Monday where the group gathered to discuss their unique bond.

It all started back in March with sisters Bethany and Hannah Goralski. They decided to donate their kidneys to people who were not able to find a match among family or friends in honor of their father, who died of kidney failure.

"I felt badly because I couldn't save my dad, but I felt like someone else serves this kidney as much as he did," Bethany said.

Friends and relatives inspired by their act donated their kidneys to others. It was all anonymous until the group gathered on Friday and doctors told the donors who received their kidneys.

Northwestern's Dr. John Friedewald explained the impact of their act.

"For someone to step forward - a living donor - and short circuit the long wait - typically for a deceased donor - which can be up to five or more years, it really increases their life expectancy and gives them a better quality of life," he said.

Julia Bauchwitz is an example of that, having spent years getting treatment for kidney failure.

"I can't tell you what it feels like to have the freedom not to have to be attached to a machine," she said.

Another patient, Chris Heitz, is another example.

"Baseball with my kid. That probably was the biggest smile on my 10-year-old's face, for me to be able to go back out in the yard and play catch with him and bat with him and take him places," Heitz said. "Things I just couldn't get out of bed to do on a daily basis."

The chain started by the sisters remains open because the donors who were incompatible with their intended recipient still plan to donate to someone in need in the future.
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