Bettendorf man receives kidney donation from online stranger

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IOWA CITY -- A Bettendorf man is getting a second shot at life thanks to a complete stranger.

On Thursday, December 8, 2016, Rich Klim received a kidney transplant at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics from a live donor he connected with through Facebook.

"It's been a pretty emotional roller coaster, to know that there are people out there who have a servant heart to step up and volunteer to donate an organ, to change our life," said Klim.

That donor's name is Cassie Hickel. She's a wife and mom from Hays, Kansas, who says she was inspired to reach out after seeing a billboard near her hometown years ago. The billboard simply read, "I need a kidney," and had a phone number.

Hickel later learned through newspaper articles that a Kansas man had been looking for an organ donor for his dying wife. Hickel never called, but the sign weighed heavily on her heart.

"For the longest time, I thought that it was because I would have been a match for her, but the more I tell the story, I realize that it was God just preparing my heart for this situation," said Hickel.

In May 2015, a mutual friend of Klim and Hickel posted on Facebook, asking for help when Klim's kidneys started to fail due to a hereditary disease. Because Klim has type O blood, a donor was proving especially difficult to find.

Hickel responded to the post, and ended up being a perfect match.

"When we met, he looked sick, like his color and everything was terrible, but he had the biggest smile on his face, and it was like he finally had hope," said Hickel.

Both Klim and Hickel are doing well post-surgery. Just one week after the transplant, Klim walked half a mile at the local Y. Doctors expect him to return to work within 10 to 12 weeks.

Klim says he is still overwhelmed by this stranger's perfect gift.

"When you look at the hopelessness of being on dialysis, without a doubt, this is a gamechanger for life," said Klim. "It certainly is the best gift we could have gotten at Christmas."