AURORA, Colo. -- Thirteen people die each day while waiting for a kidney transplant, and while many people consider the idea of donating an organ to a family member or friend, one Denver woman was willing to give her kidney to a total stranger.
That selfless act helped save six lives.
Sara Martin is one of those kinds of people who are always looking for ways to help others.
"I live in Denver. I work for an area law firm on the policy side," said Martin. "And I just got to thinking there has to be something I can do to help."
She started looking into living organ donation last year, and in April, she had transplant surgery at UCHealth in Aurora.
Martin's kidney went to a 20-year-old woman in California who she never met, and probably never will.
"If she wants to meet me, I'm fine with that, but I don't want there to be any stipulations or for her to feel obligated for any of this," said Martin. "She got a kidney. She is ready for life and to have things be better for herself again. No need to thank me."
Her selfless act caused a ripple effect of so-called "paired donations," donors who weren't matches for their loved-ones, but promised to donate a kidney if a match was found.
Martin's kidney donation to the 20-year-old set in motion a donation to a 3-year-old and four other people across the nation, eventually helping to save six lives.
"An altruistic donor can spike a big chain reaction," said Dr. Monica Grafales with the University of Colorado Hospital's Live Donor program, who said altruistic, or angel, donors are rare and badly needed. "The majority of people we put in the kidney transplant waitlist, many of them die while waiting, because there are just not enough donors. "
Martin said for her, the recovery was not hard. After a few weeks, she said she was back to racing on her bike and felt no different with one kidney versus two.
Ultimately, she said, she feels what she gave was more than worth it for what she received.
"There is not joy attached to things," said Martin. "There is joy attached to helping people, and I have never felt the kind of joy that I've felt through this whole experience."