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Clinton woman finds perfect match for kidney donation from neighbor

Her perfect match for a new kidney was literally right next door.

CLINTON, Maine — In Maine, there is no shortage of stories about neighbors helping neighbors. Whether it's helping shovel snow or picking up groceries for those who live nearby, Maine communities have no shortage of generosity. That's most certainly the case in the small central Maine town Clinton.

"I have always used the word hopeful," Catherine Campbell said. 

Campbell has been hopeful her entire life. She said she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 12, which has led to additional health challenges throughout her life. 

Doctors reportedly told Campbell she was at risk for developing Chronic Kidney Disease, based on her diabetes diagnosis. That time came to a critical point in January 2021, when Catherine was diagnosed with stage 4 Chronic Kidney Disease, when her kidneys were functioning at only 19 percent. After more testing, doctors told her she needed of a kidney transplant.

"That's when the whole look for my miracle started," Campbell said. 

According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 100,000 people in the United States are awaiting a kidney transplant. 

Campbell started her search for a new kidney, but she had no idea where the journey would take her. However, she said she always remained hopeful. After her diagnosis, she told her close friends, including neighbors, but never expected the response she received.

"I just kind of went to it, finding out blood type, getting a hold of the transplant center, seeing what I needed to do to move ahead," Jess Begin, Campbell's next door neighbor said. 

Begin said she immediately felt called to get herself tested to see if there was any way she might be a match for Campbell to donate the kidney she needed. 

The two have lived next door to each other for 14 years and have developed a very close friendship since then. 

"In January, she called and told me she's the one," Campbell said.

Campbell's perfect match for a new kidney was literally right next door. After about a year of searching, Campbell says, she found her "miracle."

"After she told me, I said you're not just my neighbor and my friend anymore, you're going to be my sister," Campbell said. 

"My donor advocate told me we were in the high 90s for compatibility," Begin said. 

Now that Campbell has found her match, she and Begin are preparing for surgery at Mass General Hospital in Boston on March 15.

"I'm still hopeful, but I am so excited. I cannot wait to know what it feels like to feel good again," Campbell said. 

Begins said she never it a second thought to give a kidney to her neighbor and said she is so grateful to be able to give the gift of life to her next door neighbor and close friend.

"Catherine has a lot of people in her life that absolutely love her, and I just feel like it's just allowing them to have more of her," Begin said. 

The two hope their story can help provide hope to others who are waiting and also inspire people to get tested to see whether they could be compatible to be someone's living donor.

"Not everybody is offered this gift and this opportunity. But as the person who needs it, finding out that the person that lives right next door is a miracle? I want this to give someone the hope to just keep going," Campbell said.

Loved ones of Campbell have also launched a GoFundMe to help raise money for the cost of surgery.

Anyone with interest in learning about becoming a living donor can visit the National Kidney Foundation website.

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