3 families' lives changed thanks to organ donation chain

LIVINGSTON, N.J. -- Talk about the gift of life, there was a remarkable reunion of those who gave and those who received kidneys from strangers.

Their lives saved and changed forever. Three recipients met three donors, and it proved organ donor programs really do work.

Three families and one member of each needed a kidney, so one member of each gave a kidney.

It erased all problems of not matching, three families giving life and receiving it.

Here's how it happened: Joe needed a kidney. So his mother Joan gave a kidney to Ken. Ken's wife Donna gave a kidney to Art. So Art's daughter Karin gave a kidney to Joe. By the way, father and daughter were a match, but they joined this circle to complete it for people who are strangers no more.

"It's taught me to see that there is a gift of life and there are great people out there in the world able to do that," said Joe Pellegrino, Joan's son.

His mom included of course.

"It's been a struggle, but he's so healthy now. I'm thankful to Karin for doing it. I have my baby back," said Joan Pellegrino, Joe's mother.

"I was going to give a kidney to my dad anyway, so when I knew this could work out, it just really made sense," said Karin Attonito, Art's daughter.

"In my life, this is one of the most emotional times I've had, my life has been saved by this woman," said Art Attonito, Karin's father.

That woman would be Ken's wife.

"To have him join me at the gym, do the things we used to, it's amazing," said Donna Hlavacek, Ken's wife.

"You can go back to life; I can go back to work and play with my grandkids," said Ken Hlavacek, Donna's husband.

St. Barnabas has this down to a science. They've been doing living donor chains for 10 years; they're second in the nation in this type of donation.

"Incompatibly and matching can be complex, but we've found out how generous people are," said Marie Morgievich, of the St. Barnabas Living Donor Institute.

Sharing life and now lives are forever intertwined.

For more information please visit:

The Living Donor Institute
St. Barnabas Medical Center
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