Local woman donates kidney to save family friend

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JACKSON COUNTY, MI (WILX) -- Right now across the country, there are more than 100,000 people waiting for an organ donation.

Sam Bates kisses Anthony Ellis on his head shortly after donating her kidney to him (source, WILX).

And that list grows by the day.

Anthony Ellis of Jackson County used to be on that list, waiting for a kidney, until a family friend stepped up.

Her name is Sam Bates, and she said she didn't hesitate when she found out she was a match for someone she considers family.

"I just said I was all in. I wanted to do it."

Anthony's family always knew he would need a transplant, they just didn't know when. That's because he was born with Chronic Kidney Disease. This past year, doctors broke the news, prompting the family to start the search. So Kathy Ellis took to Facebook...at the same time, Sam Bates was getting tested to see if she was a match.

"Sure enough, my blood matched. They called me back for testing and I passed all the testing and...they scheduled the surgery," she said.

A surgery Kathy Ellis worried would never happen. She said she didn't want Bates to feel like she had to donate part of her body to Anthony, but when Bates assured her that she did, she was beyond grateful.

"I don't know if I can put it into words...to know that she was going to give life to my son..." Kathy Ellis said, choking up.

"I am very thankful and grateful that she gave me my kidney because I would die without a kidney," Anthony Ellis said.

After the surgery, the two tackled the task of recovery the only way they knew how: together.

"I made the decision to see if I could go push Anthony. So what we did was I went over and we walked all around the block. And at one point he was like 'this is halfway let's go back.' And I was like 'no we can go all the way around the corner, we can get there.' So we pushed and got all the way back, and by the time we got back to the house we were exhausted," Bates laughed.

"It made it easier so I wouldn't be alone recovering and stuff," Anthony Ellis said.

Bates was excited to graduate with her Master's Degree from Ferris State, but chose to miss the ceremony for the surgery. But a few weeks later, a surprise. The university's president, professors, and both families surprised her with her own ceremony. Today, both Ellis and Bates are doing great. Ellis is excited to play baseball this fall, and Bates is even back to work. Both families hope sharing their story will inspire others to see if they are a match for someone on the ever-growing list of people waiting for an organ.

"I hope that people recognize and realized how important it is. There are so many people out there waiting. Don't be selfish, just think about other people," Bates said.

By thinking of another person, Bates saved a life, something she says she can check off her bucket list. Now, she wants to do more good and says she wants to use her degree to become a federal probation officer.

To learn more about organ donation click here.

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