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North Mankato kidney recipient meets life-saving donor

For the first time ever, Sandra Oachs met face-to-face with Zach Eyster, the person who gave her a second chance at life.
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 8:22 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2022 at 8:26 PM CDT
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NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - For the first time ever, Sandra Oachs met face-to-face with Zach Eyster, the person who gave her a second chance at life.

“There’s nothing that I can ever do to repay the gift of life that he gave me,” Oachs said.

Oachs was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease in 1998, a disorder that causes fluid-filled cysts to form on the kidneys.

Her organs began shutting down three years ago, and she was put on the transplant list which she shared with more than 100,000 Americans.

The average wait time is about four years, and for Oachs, it likely would’ve been even longer.

“I’ve got some unique characteristics to my blood and DNA, and so finding a kidney was going to be even harder,” Oachs explained.

She looked for alternatives.

That’s when Oachs and her husband, Clayton, came across the National Kidney Foundation’s paired donor program.

“My husband would donate his kidney. It wouldn’t come to me, because we’re not a match, but it will go out to the universe,” Oachs said. “Hopefully somebody out there would be able to match me.”

Within two weeks, a match was found.

In early November, the couple went under the knife.

Doctors removed Oachs’ kidneys which had grown to weigh 11 pounds.

The new organ was a new beginning, but she didn’t know if she’d ever find out who her donor was.

Some choose to remain anonymous.

“Understanding that I may never know who did this was hard, because if somebody does something for me, I want to thank them,” Oachs mentioned.

About a month later, Oachs received a text message from Eyster, the donor who saved her.

“I have one opportunity really to do something that really will last in someone’s life, and this is it,” Eyster said.

The father-of-three is an attorney from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.

Surprisingly, he didn’t have a partner in the paired kidney exchange.

Eyster simply wanted to give.

“It was just the desire to do it. Once I found out that I wasn’t going to be a match for anybody that I knew, I had the option of just kind of putting it out there into the universe,” Eyster explained.

Oachs and Eyster were part of a chain of donations.

Five people across the country received kidneys from the exchange.

“I just so appreciate the opportunity to grow old with my husband, and to see my kids get married, and move on with our lives, and see my grandkids grow up,” Oachs stated. “That’s a gift that can’t be repaid in anyway, but I do appreciate you giving me life.”

“It’s something that everybody deserves,” Eyster added.

Oachs and Eyster encourage people to visit https://unos.org/transplant/living-donation/ and https://kidneydonorathlete.org/ to learn more about living organ donation.

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