Dylan Matthews donated his left kidney to a perfect stranger, in what’s known as a “non-directed” donation. Dylan’s kidney initiated a donation chain in which four people received live-saving kidney transplants. Read his account at Vox.

On Monday, August 22, 2016, a surgical team at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore removed my left kidney. It was then drained of blood, flushed with a preservative solution, placed on ice, and flown to Cincinnati.

Surgeons in Cincinnati then transplanted the kidney into a recipient I’d never met and whose name I didn’t know; we didn’t correspond until this past month. The only thing I knew about him at the time was that he needed my kidney more than I did. It would let him avoid the physically draining experience of dialysis and possibly live an extra nine to 10 years, maybe more.

This is why getting a kidney is such a big deal: The recipient gains about a decade of life, on average. They get to see their children and grandchildren grow, to spend more time with their partner and their friends, and to escape a painful, exhausting procedure (dialysis) that would otherwise consume half their days. And the toll on the donor is tiny in comparison.

Before the surgery, one of the nurses told me that most patients get to a point, usually three to four weeks after the surgery, where they stop and realize that they feel completely normal again. I hit that point in my second week back at work. It was less that I felt something specific, and more that I didn’t feel anything weird or different anymore. My life was back to where it was pre-surgery. And it had happened really, really fast.

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