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Nice To Meet You. Take My Kidney.

I don't usually write about important topics during their designated "awareness" months, because  it always seems so gimmicky. But I'm making an exception for Organ Donation Awareness month, mostly because this story is too sweet not to share. It comes via the PR folks at Albert Einstein Medical Center (full disclosure: former Daily News scribe Jill Porter consults for the marketing department there). And if it doesn't convince you that some people are angels on earth, I'm not sure what will. This is from the press release:

"Rachel Buckley and her family asked members of their church to pray for her to get a new kidney. Rachel, now 38, had been ill since she was a teenager and had developed renal failure. Congregants in the intensely devout evangelical Christian church in suburban Philadelphia not only prayed for Rachel: one of them donated her kidney.

"Lindsey Steege, now 23, was following the example of her father, who had donated his kidney to his sister a few years earlier.   Lindsey and Rachel were too divergent in age to be social friends but the families had befriended each other through St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Huntingdon Valley, PA.  The two families recently got together to celebrate the first anniversary of the transplant, which took place at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia on Feb. 25, 2011. "We are forever intertwined as families," said Lindsey's father, Chuck Steege. "And most definitely Rachel and Lindsey are intertwined. I don't think words can even define the connection."

"Rachel developed an auto-immune disease when she was 13, and although it eventually went into remission, her kidneys were severely damaged.  By 2010, she had to stop singing with the choir and stop planning evenings out with friends because she was always exhausted.  She got on the transplant waiting list and was awaiting a date to have a device surgically implanted so she could start dialysis. Meanwhile, the church held prayer chains – and, unbeknownst to her, Lindsey had started testing to see if she was a match.

"Lindsey's decision to donate was almost casual. 'One Sunday after church, I was talking to Rachel's mom about Rachel's situation and I said, 'Why don't you get me the information?' (about donating).'  Lindsey was familiar with the process because of her father, and was motivated by her faith. 'I believe you do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' she said. She was tested and determined to be a match.

"It wasn't long after the surgery that Rachel regained her strength. 'It's the most clichéd thing to say but I got my life back,"' she said. Her feelings towards Lindsey are beyond description. 'Every time I see her, I want to grab her and thank her.' For her part, Lindsey is embarrassed at the attention she's received at the church and deflects Rachel's gratitude.

"There was an unexpected and touching moment in the hospital the day of the transplant. Although transplant teams try to keep donors and recipients apart to spare each of them distress if a complication arises, the only bay available to Rachel in the recovery room after surgery was right next to Lindsey.  'I remember looking over at Rachel; she looked at me and said thank you,' Lindsey said.  With tears in her eyes, Lindsey said, 'You're welcome.'