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Husband of 37 years donates kidney to replace wife's lifelong failing kidneys

(KTVL/Mike Marut)

Barbara Chappell, a White City resident, has lived with Polycystic Kidney Disease her entire life - 57 years.

"The kidneys are about three times the [normal] size, they're covered with cysts," Barbara said. "Sometimes they can get so big they get stuck under the rib cage."

She first discovered her kidney problems when she was 14 years old.

"It was probably around 70% [functionality] and so it's kind of declined slowly, but then the last few years have gone pretty rapidly," Barbara said.

Her kidneys have gotten so bad, she only has 10% functionality. She says anything lower than that and dialysis would be necessary.

Polycystic Kidney Disease is hereditary, so Barbara does not have any children. She also no longer has any immediate, blood-related family that she could have turned to for a possible match.

Doctors said due to her declining health and her age, her chance at getting a transplant from the donor list was becoming less and less feasible - she has been on the donor list for almost two years - until a few months ago.

"I screamed!" Rick Chappell, Barbara's husband, said. "I screamed at work. It's like 'yeah!"

Rick turned out to be the perfect match.

"I was talking to my boss about it and he said 'why don't you do it?'" Rick remembered.

About a month-and-a-half ago, Rick decided to get tested. During their 37-year marriage, he had always been under the impression their blood types would not work together - his is O- and hers is O+.

"I was always told that one in a million it [would] be a match," Rick said.

Now, he says it's like Barbara will have a second birthday. With this new life for her, Rick also sees a striking resemblance to Barbara's favorite animal, the butterfly.

"It's like she's been a cocoon and now she's emerging into a butterfly," Rick said.

Doctors say unrelated people matching almost perfectly for a kidney transplant is rare, especially for husband and wife.

The couple still needs your help though. They set up a Go-Fund-Me for $5000 to help with living expenses because neither of them will be able to work for about six weeks as they recover. They will also need to be near Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital for follow-up exams and recovery.

If you would like to donate to the Go-Fund-Me, click here.

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