March 27, 2010 in Nation/World

Grocery cashier receives kidney from customer

Julie Deardorff Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO – A month ago, Dan Coyne knew just two things about a cheerful cashier who worked at Jewel-Osco in Evanston: her first name and her need for a new kidney.

On Friday, however, their lives became inextricably linked after Coyne donated one of his healthy kidneys to Myra de la Vega, of Evanston, a Filipino immigrant and single mother of two teenagers. The daylong organ transplantation took place at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Kovlar Organ Transplantation Center, which performs about 170 living-donor transplants a year and is one of the busiest programs in the country.

“I really didn’t know Myra until after the match,” said Coyne, 52, referring to the moment when he learned his blood and tissues were compatible with hers. Since then, his decision to give a diminutive stranger his kidney has profoundly changed both their lives and affected friends, relatives and those who heard about their story.

Coyne and de la Vega say that once they recover, they want to help find living donors for some of the 84,000 people in the U.S. suffering from kidney failure.

“I want to give people hope,” said de la Vega, 49, who has been spending $40,000 a month on dialysis since August 2008.

Coyne was expected to be discharged from the hospital today. Because de la Vega will need to be monitored after taking anti-rejection medicine, she will stay in the hospital until Monday.

Dan Coyne said his gift has no strings attached.

“If we can be friends and our families support each other, fine,” he said, “but I want her to know she is in no way obligated to continue a relationship with me after she gets the kidney. It’s a gift.”

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email