Barbara Huff, Youth Ministry Associate, Central Lutheran Church

Donating a kidney is a selfless act usually done by one family member for another who is sick and in need.

That makes Barbara Huff’s story all the more remarkable. She donated a kidney last summer to a 13-year-old girl she had never met.

Huff learned of the girl’s plight through her Lutheran church, Divine Redeemer in Hartland, where her husband serves as pastor. Huff began learning more about the girl, Laura, through a blog called “Caring Bridge” after her husband had visited Laura in the hospital.

“I was praying for her, and knew of her need,” says the 49-year-old Huff, a youth ministry associate for Central Lutheran Church in Hartland.

Laura became sick in the spring of 2007, and by last fall, the call was put out for a person who was Type A or O – a blood type that was not a match with her own family members because she had been adopted.

From that point on, Huff says she was guided by a force greater than herself.

From the point where she made the decision to donate a drop of blood as part of the test to determine a donor match, she felt herself being taken down a path from which there would be no turning back. The age cutoff for kidney donors is 50.

“We found out later that I was the only one who was a match,” Huff says. “When I said I would give that drop of blood, I had no idea it would lead to this. I’m a Christian, and I feel like I was chosen to do it. I said yes before I even realized I was saying yes.”

After six months of testing, Barb and Laura had surgery on July 1, and the donated kidney worked perfectly from the moment it was implanted. Laura has been restored to health and has completed the first semester of her freshman year of high school.

According to Leah Strong, an admissions counselor at Marquette University who nominated Huff as a Health Care Hero, the doctors at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin say they have never seen such an unlikely match.

“It is such a wonderful experience – it was a gift given to me,” Huff says. “God chose me. It has just really been a wonderful thing.”

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