Ellen DeGeneres surprises Minnesota single mom who donated a kidney to save her son

STAR TRIBUNE | Sharyn Jackson

A Minnesota single mom who donated a kidney to a stranger to save her son ends up on "Ellen."

Ellen DeGeneres talked to the Elsenpeter family of Andover on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Nov. 16.
Born with congenital kidney failure, Zachary Elsenpeter faced a lifetime of medical complications.

He had his first kidney transplant, from his father, as an infant. But by age 5, his body began to reject it. A buildup of antibodies fighting the kidney gave him only a 3 percent chance of finding a perfect match for a new organ.

Zachary was put on a list of more than 100,000 people waiting for a kidney. His mother, Stacey Elsenpeter, felt helpless.

“It’s the worst feeling ever as a parent,” Stacey said. “Just watching him get sicker and sicker and there’s nothing I can do but pray someone’s going to come forward to donate.”

Stacey wanted to donate her kidney to him, but she wasn’t a match for her son.

That didn’t stop her from getting proactive: She signed up for the Paired Exchange Program at the University of Minnesota Health.

“I said, ‘I’m not taking that 3 percent,’ ” Stacey said. Continue reading

The Elsenpeter family of Andover (from left, Kylie, Stacey, Austin and Zachary) appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Dec. 6 as part of the DeGeneres’ “12 Days of Giveaways.”

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