San Francisco, CA – As if serving in the U.S. Army and as a San Francisco police officer weren’t already enough, a California mother donated a kidney to a stranger on Nov. 14.
Through her selfless act, Officer Anna Cuthbertson, 35, not only saved one life – she helped to create a chain situation where eight additional patients also received the kidneys they desperately needed.
“I thought, the more the merrier,” Officer Cuthbertson told the San Francisco Gate on Thursday.
She said she became curious about organ donation about ten months ago, after listening to a podcast that mentioned the website MatchingDonors.com.
“It’s like Craiglist for body parts, so who wouldn’t want to check that out?” Officer Cuthbertson told KTVU.
About the same time, Joan Grealis, a 64-year-old married mother of two, created a profile on the MatchingDonors.com website. She had been waiting for a kidney for five years, and her time was dwindling.
Out of thousands of profiles, Officer Cuthbertson was drawn to Grealis’s.
“I couldn’t believe than an hour after I posted, that someone answered me!” Grealis told KTVU.
“There are about 100,000 people waiting for kidneys in this country,” Dr. Deborah Adey, UCSF’s Medical Director for Kidney Transplant Service told KTVU. “The wait time is for deceased donor kidneys is up to ten years.”
“I lost my mother when I was 16, and Joan has kids who are my age,” Officer Cuthbertson told the San Francisco Gate. “I thought about how I would do anything to have my mom back … I just thought, ‘God, why wouldn’t I?’”
However, after eight months of testing, doctors determined Grealis and Officer Cuthbertson were not a match.
But that wasn’t the end of things. After a bit more waiting, the women became a part of a kidney “chain.”
While Officer Cuthbertson’s kidney wasn’t a match for Grealis, it matched someone else perfectly. That stranger’s willing donor matched up with yet another person in need, and the pieces started to fall into place.
In the end, the chain comprised 18 people, nine donors and nine recipients, including Grealis and Officer Cuthbertson, the San Francisco Gate reported.
Officer Cuthbertson donated her kidney to a stranger in the chain on the same day that Grealis underwent a successful transplant.
“She’s just an amazing person!” Grealis told KTVU. “All of the things that she has done to selflessly give to others is amazing!”
Officer Cuthbertson enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2001 and was deployed to Iraq in 2003.
She remained in the Army reserves when she returned stateside, became a mother, and began working for the San Francisco Police Department.
In 2011, during a deployment to Afghanistan, Officer Cuthbertson led a team that advocated for women’s rights and helped to build a women’s center.