A civilian employee with Joint Base Charleston was given a second chance at life after a Reserve airman selflessly donated one of her kidneys to save the dying man.
Master Sgt. Stephanie Kimbrell, 35, of North Charleston, didn't know David Harvill, a public health specialist battling end-stage kidney failure, prior to the transplant.
But that didn't stop Kimbrell, a logistics plans craftsman with the 315th Logistics Readiness Squadron, from doing all that she could to help someone in need, she said.
"Not knowing your recipient doesn't take away from the experience," Kimbrell said. "I donated to someone I didn't know and it was such a blessing."
The idea of donating an organ first occurred to Kimbrell early last year as she watched a television show that depicted a fictional character dying from kidney disease.
"For some reason, it really touched my heart," she said.
By the show's end, Kimbrell felt led to turn to God in prayer, confessing her willingness to donate to anyone he deemed to be in need.
Kimbrell did not search for a potential recipient after uttering her prayer.
"I just left that part up to God," she said.
So when she learned from a supervisor in May that a civilian employee was struggling with kidney failure, she knew that God was calling her to act, she said.
Harvill, 58, of North Charleston, had struggled since childhood with IgA Nephropathy, a disorder that severely damaged his kidneys. His son also suffers from the disease, he said.
Harvill's condition worsened in recent years, prompting doctors at Medical University Hospital to consider searching for a new kidney. His family members did not qualify to donate because many of them had medical conditions of their own, he said.
That's when Kimbrell reached out to the hospital determined to help.
"There aren't a lot of people who would donate to someone they don't know," Harvill said. "That's one in a million."
Doctor's initially told Kimbrell that the chances of her being a match for Harvill were slim because she wasn't a family member.
"That didn't worry me at all," she said. Kimbrell chose to go forward with a series of pre-donation tests, despite doctors' warnings.
The tests concluded that Kimbrell was a viable match, and a transplant soon followed on Jan. 22.
Harvill received Kimbrell's kidney less than a month after being officially placed on a transplant list, he said.
"Once you're on that list, it usually takes two to five years to receive an organ," Harvill said.
The swiftness of his process "had to be" God's doing, he said.
Kimbrell and Harvill said they are both doing well since their surgeries.
They talk weekly and both have grown close to each other's families, they said.
"If our story gets one person to donate, then it's a win for everybody," Kimbrell said. "There are a lot of people out there who need kidneys."
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.
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