Donation builds a friendship that will last a lifetime

GALESBURG, Illinois-- February 14 is home to more than just Valentine's Day.  National Donor Day, raises awareness about organ donation, and the lives that could be saved.

Right now, more than 115,000 people are waiting for a life-saving donation. Galesburg native, Gary Thomas, used to be one of them.

“Four years ago or so my kidneys were failing," said Gary. Gary was seventy-years-old when he was added to the kidney transplant waiting list, after suffering from diabetes.

“In the spring of 2016 they were pretty much not functioning and July 1 of that year I started doing dialysis,” said Gary.

Family members stepped forward to be donors, but no one was a match.

Gary was told he would be waiting between five to seven years before he could get a new kidney, until Janet Tolle came along.

“We bumped into Gary and Gary is an old friend and he mentioned that he had kidney failure and he was on the National Kidney Transplant list,” said Tolle.

It didn’t take long for her to decide what she needed to do.

“That day I decided to offer my kidney to Gary,” said Tolle. “His health and quality of life could be restored if he had a kidney I just knew automatically and for me that’s unusual I just knew and I felt I was the one."

After going through several rounds of testing, Janet was a match.

“There was something about being able to give that gift of life, to donate life to Gary, to someone who needed it,” said Tolle.

A process that connected them instantly.

“Every time I bend over I think of her, ‘there I am, I can feel her!’,” said Thomas.

As for Janet, she doesn’t regret a thing.

"I was at a time of life where I was looking for this sort of thing and my heart was full and my ears were listening and this just occurred in such a way,” said Tolle.

Now almost a year later. Gary, Janet and the donated kidney 'Lefty' are doing better than ever.

“It’s doing great, it’s amazing,” said Thomas.

Hoping their relationship inspires others to become donors. Janet and Gary will be making an appearance at Galesburg High School on Friday, February 15 for 'Hoops for Hope'.  An event that raises awareness for organ donation.

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