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Chamblee police captain starts kidney transplant chain

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CHAMBLEE, Ga. -

Mike Beller wanted to make a real difference. The Chamblee police captain didn't want to help just one person, he wanted to help as many people as he could. So Beller became "patient number one," triggering a chain of kidney transplants from Atlanta to Wisconsin and beyond.

Beller, who was raised by Christian missionaries in Mexico, grew up believing he has a responsibility to give back.

At the Chamblee Police Department, Beller is the chief of investigations. He's also a former Army Ranger and a father of five.

Last winter, he started thinking about donating a kidney and found an article online about the National Kidney Registry.
   
"There's 90,000 people in this country that need a kidney, and there's thousands of them every year that die without one," Beller said.

The registry matches people who need a kidney and have a willing donor who is not a match for them with someone who is, connecting together a chain of transplants across the country.

Beller decided he wanted to start a chain.

"If he could give to one person, that would be great, but this would allow him the possibility to maybe help two, three, five, six, and in some chains we've seen even up to 60, or 50 people involved," said Dr. Nicole Turgeon, a transplant surgeon at Emory University Hospital.
 
The city of Chamblee gave Beller paid time off, his wife Molly, who was worried about him, came around.

"We had a loss. We lost a baby, full-term, and you just think with your children, if there is something that somebody could do to help out, it would be such a treasure," said Molly Beller. "So, that was kind of the thought -- to be able to have that blessing for someone else, why not?"
 
After a bloodless operation that lasted just an hour and a half, the transplant team had 24 hours to get Mike's kidney across the country to someone the donor has never met.

"This kidney is going to Madison, Wisconsin, and then that recipient will receive the kidney later today, so it will happen immediately upon its arrival there," Turgeon said.

The kidney flew on a passenger jet with a courier.  

Mike Beller's gift will trigger another transplant, and then another, and maybe another,

"It's quite remarkable that we're able to do this, with shipping kidneys all over the country, with different centers, different surgeons, different programs," Turgeon said.

Two and a half weeks later, back at work, Beller doesn't want to be a hero, but, he would love to be guy to get people thinking about what they can do to start their own chain.

"Your health is a gift and there are a lot of people that are just as deserving of good health as you that don't have it," Beller said.

The National Kidney Registry has facilitated 615 living donor transplants.

The largest swap, which happened last December, involved 60 patients: 30 donors and 30 recipients.

To read more about the National Kidney Registry, go to: http://www.kidneyregistry.org/?gclid=CLaomOjEj7kCFYyd4AodeXkAcQ

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