LIVINGSTON - Kidney transplant recipients met their donors at a special gathering Monday to celebrate life and second chances.
Saint Barnabas Medical Center held the event in Livingston to honor those who made those reunions possible.
A total of 15 kidney donors and 15 recipients that were part of a living donor kidney exchange program met for the first time. The program allows strangers to donate kidneys to help loved ones they can't donate to.
"This is unbelievable - it's a miracle and I'm so excited," says recipient Virginia Victoria, of East New York. "So much love in my heart right now."
The chain of donations often goes well past two donors giving to two recipients.
Barbara Miller's 4-year-old grandson received a kidney and she wanted to give back. She randomly donated a kidney, which went to Lori Smith, of Edison. Smith's daughter Tara donated to Yves Larame, of West Orange, and his wife then gave the gift to Herbert Smalls, of Willingboro.
"I'm grateful the medical center can do that," Larame says. "Give people a second chance."
The meetings were emotional and overwhelming, but gave the donors, recipients and their families a chance to celebrate each other and a special bond that extends past donated kidneys.
"It's overwhelming but restores your faith in humanity," says Tara Smith, of Edison. "That people would do things for someone they don't know."
The program is in 10th year at Saint Barnabas.