NY woman answers “American Ninja Warrior’ contestant’s plea, donates kidney to save girl’s life

Amy Schlee and Hazel Niemitalo, the recipient of Amy's kidney donation, are shown in this undated photo.
ONEONTA, N.Y. — Amy Schlee was watching the NBC show "American Ninja Warrior" in July 2016 when she decided to donate one of her kidneys to someone she'd never met before.

"It's something I'd researched doing in the past," Schlee said in a phone interview with the Oneonta, New York Daily Star on Tuesday.

"American Ninja Warrior" is an athletic game show in which contestants tackle obstacle courses that feature structures with forbidding names such as "the salmon ladder" and "the warped wall."

On the episode that Schlee saw, however, a construction worker from North Carolina named Kenny Niemitalo made a plea on behalf of his baby daughter Hazel, who had been diagnosed with a congenital disease requiring a kidney transplant.

"How do I get the world saying, 'this girl needs a transplant?'" Niemitalo said during the show.

"They had been unable to find a match," Schlee said. "They were desperately seeking a new kidney donor."

Schlee said that she actually happened on the segment at the tail end of the show, and began pursuing donation soon after that. Continue reading

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