BELLEFONTE, CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — A couple of years ago, Maureen Stathes, a Bellefonte resident, saw an inspiring story on CBS Evening News about a living donor.

Stathes was so moved that she started to do some research and found that there are more than 100,000 people on the national transplant waiting list. She didn’t personally know someone in need but knew she could help change someone’s life.

“My mind was set,” Stathes said. “I wanted to do it and I did it. It can be done and you can live a normal, healthy life afterwards. You need a kidney, but you don’t need two.”

Stathes decided to start the process to become a living donor. Then, in 2021, she went down to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for full testing before she was approved. She said a little less than two weeks later they found a match, Dwayne Weller.

“They called me and said we have a donor for you,” Weller explained. “I wasn’t really expecting anyone to come forward and donate a kidney. I really expected I was going to be waiting for a cadaver donor.”

Stathes and Weller met for the first time on April 6, 2022, which is designated as Donate Life Living Donor Day. The day is observed during National Donate Life Month.

Get the latest local news, weather, and community events. Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter.

Before they met, Stathes only knew Weller’s age and gender, that he was on dialysis, and in need of a kidney.

“This person is on dialysis a couple of times a week,” Stathes explained. “He can’t travel. He can’t play with his kids. My emotions were just like, if it helps one person, it is well worth it.”

So on May 4, 2021, Stathes got ready for surgery to give a life-saving kidney to someone she had never met.

“He’s doing great,” Stathes said. “He is recovering well. He still has a little recovering to do, but he out walking, he is active, he is out doing things with his family.”

Weller thought it would be years before he’s find a match, but thanks to Stathes, he is now off dialysis and getting healthier by the day.

“When I first went on the list they told me to expect to wait at least 5 years,” Weller said. “Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. The quality of life is so much better now. I wanted to tell her thank you, but thank you just doesn’t seem like it’s anywhere close to enough.”

It’s hard for most people to give away something as simple as old clothes, but when you ask Stathes why, she said she thinks it is because she can.

“I am healthy,” Stathes said. “I have two kidneys. I don’t need both of them and so I can donate to someone who needs one.”

On the day Stathes met Weller for the first time, he gave her an angel necklace.

“And he told me that I was his angel,” Stathes said emotionally. “He thanked me again for donating to him.”

Stathes also got a tattoo of a kidney with new sprouts of life coming out from it and then growing into daisies, which is her favorite flower. She hopes it will spark a conversation about what it means to be a living donor.

“Because people do ask you about your tattoos,” Stathes explained. “What does it mean? Does it mean something? So this tattoo means a lot to me and I think definitely, yes, it will start a conversation.”

Both donor and recipient are recovering well. Stathes is even back to living her active lifestyle.

“But within three months I was back trail running again,” Stathes said. “I did my first race in August 2021 and I was like five minutes slower than the same race last year, so I am recovering very strong.”

Weller is forever grateful. He not only has a new kidney, but a new friend.

The two hope their story gets others to donate

“I think if anyone feels they are healthy enough and they want to do it, they should do it,” Stathes said. “If our story inspires one person to donate, then it was all worth it.”

Doctors said they are able to save lives every day because of people like Stathes. She said she is willing to answer any questions if anyone who is interested in the living donor program wants to reach out to her.