Remarkable gift saves a co-worker’s life

After 19 years working together, they have an even stronger connection.

Deb Chorzempa and Jackie Francis

Deb Chorzempa, a data analyst in Fairview’s PreferredOne insurance division, remembers training Jackie Francis, a system analyst, when Jackie first started on the job. 

They’ve worked together 19 years, even playing on the company softball team together.

Earlier this year, Deb learned that she needed a new kidney. When Jackie heard about it, she knew she was a good candidate to give Deb one of hers.

“It feels like I’ve been training for this, like I’ve been incubating a kidney for her for years,” Jackie says. “I quit smoking nine years ago, I work out six days a week, I eat all the right things — it just all felt like it was supposed to happen.” 

Match game

As a potential donor, Jackie had to be tested to find out if her kidney would be a match for Deb. Kidney donations can be made between non-family members, but not all donor organs are compatible with their intended recipients.

At University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, a Fairview nurse who wanted to give her kidney to another nurse wasn’t a match. This summer, she was still able to donate to him through what’s called a “paired exchange.” It was a sort of kidney swap.     

“These are people who are consciously donating to someone they do not know, with the promise someone they do will receive the same,” says Timothy Pruett, MD, Executive Medical Director of Transplant Care for University of Minnesota Health. 

Bu Jackie’s test results came back with good news: She was a match for Deb.

Happy homecoming

Today, both co-workers are doing well and back on the job, where Jackie’s generosity inspired further kindness.

“My co-workers have been great,” Deb says. “Every one of them came over to welcome me back and see how I am doing.” 

“My team has been the most supportive,” Jackie says. “Without them picking up my slack, my decision to donate would have been much more difficult.”

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