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Families share kidneys, lives

kidney
Brittany Smith, left, and Sara St. Pierre received kidney donations from members of each other's families.

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(CNN) -- Sure, stranger things have happened, but don't try telling the Smith or St. Pierre families. They were desperate for help and found it -- from each other.

In a remarkable medical matchup, Emily Smith donated a kidney to Sara St. Pierre, while Sara's father, Fred St. Pierre, did the same thing for Emily's sister, Brittany. The rare family organ exchanges were performed last month in Boston, Massachusetts.

The recipients -- Sara and Fred St. Pierre, along with Emily and Brittany Smith -- joined CNN anchor Paula Zahn Monday morning from Boston.

ZAHN: Fred, you must be so relieved this worked out the way it did.

F. ST. PIERRE: Definitely nice to have it behind us.

ZAHN: How did you make it happen?

F. ST. PIERRE: We just wanted to get Sara feeling better, and just stayed after whatever it took to get things going, and definitely her mother was making connections all the time to keep in touch. It's been nice to have a support group around us.

ZAHN: And when you heard that this was going to be a sort of cross-family matchup, you had to think the odds of this were one in a million, or maybe 50 million.

S. ST. PIERRE: Yes, I got a little bit nervous that it wasn't going to happen.

ZAHN: Brittany, tell us a little more about how you felt when you heard this would even be a possibility.

B. SMITH: Well, I felt excited, but at the same time, I had no clue as to what to expect in the future with the kidney and how it would work in terms of my body and with the medicines and everything.

ZAHN: Because, Brittany, you had one transplant from your own father, right? And then when you were given the second chance, were you hopeful or were you afraid there would be rejection once again?

B. SMITH: I was hopeful, but I had my doubts due to some complications with an antibody that none of the doctors or lab technicians had seen before. They didn't recognize it, and they didn't know how it would react to the kidney.

ZAHN: Emily, you were only 18 years old. That is a pretty brave move to decide to put your name on the donor list.

E. SMITH: I knew that if I did this or had the chance to, that I would be helping her.

ZAHN: How scared were you?

E. SMITH: I was nervous, but I wasn't scared. I just didn't know what to expect. I had never been through surgery before.

ZAHN: Sara, let's go back to you for a moment. So it was Brittany's sister, Emily, who gave you one of her kidneys. Tell me, once again, a little bit more about this trade -- and now that it's been done, how you all relate to each other.

S. ST. PIERRE: Well, I think there's a bond between us, family-wise, that they are going to be a part of our lives. I do have her kidney, so I need to keep in touch with her.

ZAHN: I want to come back to Brittany for a moment. When you met Fred for the first time, what did you say to him?

B. SMITH: Well, when he came to the hospital, I told my mom that I love the name "Fred," and I have never met him. So I didn't know his name. So I decided that I would name the kidney Fred anyway.

And it was odd because he came in my room, the hospital room, and said his name was Fred, and that was just a big coincidence. So it was exciting, yes.

ZAHN: Fred, when you see Brittany smile and you see how full of energy she is, you've got to feel very good about what you have done here.

F. PIERRE: Yes, I remember Sara a long time ago, struggling through different surgeries and so on. When I first met Brittany, she had just come in from outside and she was pretty tired, and I remember Sara from that position, and it was nice to see how appreciative she was, and she has a lot more energy than she did that day, but it was been a lot of fun to get to know more.

ZAHN: And, Sara, how grateful to you for what Emily did for you?

S. ST. PIERRE: Very grateful. There is no way that I will ever be able to thank her.

ZAHN: Fred, just a closing thought on how unusual it is that your two families were brought together the way they have been.

F. ST. PIERRE: I give a lot of credit to hospital and the organ bank, making the connection that we knew we needed to get something going. That's why we are here now, to try get it out to the public, that there are possibilities and we really hate to see people have to struggle a long time on dialysis and so on.

And there are answers, and this definitely worked out well for me to be able to spend more time active instead of spending time at the hospital or back and forth to dialysis.



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