7’s HERO: Meridian woman donates kidney to stranger

Darrell Neal of San Diego, California received a kidney from a woman he'd never met -- 7's Hero Shannon Martin of Meridian.

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by Maggie O'Mara

Bio | Email | Follow: @maggiektvb7

KTVB.COM

Posted on November 19, 2012 at 9:55 AM

Updated Saturday, Nov 23 at 9:39 PM

BOISE - Would you be willing to give a part of your body away to save someone you've never met?
Shannon Martin of Meridian did just that. A man she saw on TV needed help, and she came to his rescue without a second thought.

Martin tells us she had no idea watching an episode of the Dr. Phil show, would change her life forever. But it did. The episode was about Darrell Neal of California. He had been on dialysis for seven years and desperately needed a kidney transplant, but family members weren't willing to donate.

"I was irritated, just mad," Martin told KTVB. "His family wouldn't help. I can't fathom the idea of not helping my own family, or a friend. I think they were just scared, and Darrell doesn't hold any grudges against them, he understands. These people were so sweet and so nice and my heart just broke for them."

Martin had actually tried to donate a kidney 10 years ago to someone she knew, but at the last minute a cadaver donor became available.

Fast forward ten years and Martin saw Neal on the Doctor Phil show, so she went to the show's website. Darrell Neal was a complete stranger, but she didn't care. She wanted to do it.

"They send you a whole stack of paperwork, you have to be mentally sound, physically sound," Martin said. "The transplant coordinator called me. The ball started rolling there."

After extensive testing, Shannon Martin was deemed a match for Darrell Neal, and it was a go. Neal was extremely overwhelmed with the fact that this couldn't be for real.

But it was real. In August she traveled to a San Diego hospital and checked in for surgery.

"I was scared, a little nervous," Martin said. "I go in and then 30 minutes later he goes in, I have my own surgeon, he has his own surgeon, and the kidney has a specialist wherever it goes. I was surprised, it was not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Not nearly as invasive."

The transplant was a success. Neal was up and around before she was, and he walked into her room the next day.

Now Shannon Martin considers Darrell and his family, her family. She calls him all the time to check in. "I am in contact with them via phone, facebook, text," Martin explains.

Neal told us how he felt when he found out Martin wanted to give him this gift.

"I couldn't believe it," Neal said. "I thought it was the greatest thing. I thought what kind of people are in Boise, Idaho?"

He can't say enough about Shannon, and how he feels about her.

"Oh yeah, she's a lifesaver," Neal said. "I can never thank her enough, I can never do it."

One question she gets a lot: what happens if she needs a kidney one day?

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it; I can't worry about that," Martin said. "It was an amazing experience, I'd do it again."

Shannon hopes sharing her story will help spread the word about living kidney donation.

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