Anne Allred was a healthy woman in her 30's until this past summer when her life was turned upside down.
It was shortly after 6 a.m. at Barnes-Jewish hospital and if they took an x-ray of Anne Allred, you'd probably see the butterflies.
"I'm very nervous but I have to do it," she said.
Anyone would be anxious before a major surgery, but on that day, Anne Allred was getting a new kidney and her old life back.
"Anne has renal failure. Her kidneys are no longer functioning," said Dr. Jason Wellen, BJC's Kidney Transplant Surgical Director.
It all started last summer, after she gave birth to her daughter Nora three months early.
"The pregnancy triggered a genetic disease in me," Allred said.
Atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome created blood clots that shut down her kidneys. So, for the last six months, she's been on dialysis for 8 hours every night.
"I set it up all before I go to work because you have to have sterile hands, sterile connections," she said. "I have a tube in my stomach, I plug into the machine for 8 hours and I try to go to sleep during that time."
And it could have gone on for years.
"The wait times for a kidney transplant in Missouri are approximately 4 to 5 years right now," Dr. Wellen said.
Just at BJC, there are about 1,000 people waiting for a kidney.
But Anne had a hero, a close friend went through testing and was a perfect match.
Michael Zangara texted Anne, the good news.
"She called me screaming, laughing and crying," Zangara said. "I wish I would have taped recorded it because it was one of the most surreal, awesome experiences I ever had."
Doctors say the best kind of donor is a living donor. On average, living-donor kidneys last nearly twice as long.
"Anyone who donates a kidney will have no problem living with one kidney," Dr. Wellen said. "You have two, and living with one kidney will give you the exact life you had beforehand."
Still, it's a major surgery. But Michael didn't hesitate.
"Cause I love Anne," he said. "And I love her husband and it was important for me to share this gift."
Surgeons at BJC perform more than 200 transplants a year but they never call it routine.
"It's a serious operation," Dr. Wellen said. "We're dissecting out some blood vessels both on the kidney as well as the recipient."
Three hours after it started, it was over. But for Anne a new beginning.
"What am I supposed to say?" she asked. "This whole time, I just felt guilty that I can't say enough to him."
"That's when it actually hit me, when she just said 'Thank you, thank you for a second chance at life,'" Zangara said.
A little more than a week later, Anne was in her kitchen opening get-well cards from the kids at Mason Ridge, her elementary school.
"And my kidney, according to the doctors is doing quote, unquote fantastic," Allred said.
"We expect Anne to have a completely normal life like she did before she ever got sick. To have fun with her baby. Her family and enjoy everything she was enjoying beforehand," Dr. Wellen said.
Anne hopes by sharing her story that in some way, it's an education on organ donation.
"Bone marrow, liver, kidney. You can help save someone's life right now," she said.
As Anne knows better than most, there is no greater gift than a second chance.
For more information on organ donation, visit organdonor.gov.
If you would like to start a discussion about organ donation with your family, Mid-America Transplant has information on how to get started. After the discussion, you can put your family member's intentions in writing with the family discussion form.
KSDK is proud to partner with Mid America Transplant for their Celebrate Life 5K Run and Walk. Anne will emcee the event. For more information, see the flyer below. To register, click here.