Man thankful for organ donation from Petaluma woman

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This Christmas a Merced County man is so thankful for the kidney transplant he received from a Petaluma woman.

A Merced County man has reason to celebrate this Christmas, after receiving a life-saving kidney transplant from a Petaluma woman. The two families have known each other for years and it's the second time one has given the other the gift of life.

This time of year is filled with emotions for Bill and Tish Millard of Livingston, California. The joy of celebrating with family is mixed with sorrow because their 20-year-old son, Kalem, was killed during the holidays.

"He was going to school to be a firefighter, and he was in an ATV accident. That was 10 years ago this month," Tish said.

The Millards decided to donate Kalem's organs because they knew that was his wish. Months later, Tish received a letter through The Transplant Network, which happened to arrive on her birthday. It was from Janice MacKinnon in Petaluma. Kalem's pancreas had saved the life of her 19-year-old son, Jake. The families soon made plans to meet.

"She knew nothing about us and she didn't know what kind of people we were, but it turns out we're just like them, our families are just alike," Tish said.

That bond has become even stronger over the past decade. The families gather in the Bay Area each December for a Christmas tree lighting in honor of Kalem. The event also raises money to buy bicycles for local children. But the trips had become difficult for Bill, whose diabetes left him in need of a kidney transplant.

"I was on dialysis for almost three years and I was always getting sick," Bill said.

So last year, MacKinnon offered to donate her kidney to the man whose son had saved her child's life 10 years earlier.

"I knew she would be a match. I just felt like it was destined to be that way," Tish said.

Tish was right and the pair underwent successful surgeries this summer. Now Bill is feeling much healthier and grateful for receiving a priceless gift.

"We didn't have a choice to who received Kalem's organ, but Janice did have a choice, and she picked me," Bill said.

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healthsocietyfamilychristmasorgan donationstransplantmarin countyspirit of givingPetaluma
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