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Woman says she doesn't know who to thank for donated kidney

Published On: Nov 26 2013 06:09:34 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 26 2013 07:19:21 PM EST

A Bucks County woman has so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

A Bucks County woman has so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. She was given the gift of life by a complete stranger.

Karen Forbes of Doylestown Township is recovering and feeling well less than a week after receiving a new kidney.

"When I got this phone call it was almost too good to be true," said Forbes. "I was waiting for three and a half years on the transplant list."

An anonymous, living donor offered the organ to the Lehigh Valley Health Network Transplant Center and it was a great match for Forbes, who has a genetic disorder that can lead to kidney failure.

"Polycystic kidney disease results in the gradual, very slow growth of cysts in the kidneys which ultimately cause enough scarring to destroy kidney function," explained Dr. Michael Moritz, chief of transplant services at Lehigh Valley Health Network. He performed Forbes' surgery. Dr. Moritz said the disease is the third most common cause of kidney failure in the United States. He didn't remove either of Forbes' kidneys but just added the new, healthy organ.

"If the old kidneys aren't causing problems, there's no need to take them out," said Dr. Moritz. "Most people who get a transplant get a third kidney."

"People that donate kidneys as living donors actually live, are expected to live longer lives than the general population," said Dr. Lynsey Biondi, chief of pancreas transplants, who removed the kidney from the donor. "We really honor and respect those people, we just appreciate what they do."

"It happens perhaps almost once a year for us just at our center," said Dr. Moritz.

Forbes said, "To know that someone is still living and hopefully very healthy is such a joy and a relief for me that I can just feel so lucky and blessed."

While she might not know the person, Forbes has a message for her donor.

"I just hope she, no matter what she goes though, everybody will have their difficulties in life, that she always remembers that she did this amazing thing, that she gave someone she didn't even know this gift," said Forbes. "I want her to know that she'll be in my mind every day and it will just be a joyful way to wake up and go to bed every night thinking about someone like that who's out there."

Forbes is the director of counseling services at Lafayette College. Her husband, Larry Gage, is also a psychologist.

"To think about that person and what's going through their mind, and being a psychologist I'm really curious about what the history was that prompted her to come forward," said Gage. "I can't express enough the appreciation for somebody to do that, for someone they've never met."

The couple is looking forward to enjoying many more years together.

"It's sort of like we rebooted our future," said Gage.

"We're already starting to plan being able to travel again, to think about a healthy retirement at some point," said Forbes.

According to the hospital, the donor did have one request for Forbes when she's healed: to take a walk every day and think of the donor.

Forbes said, "As soon as I recover from the surgery I'll be able to exercise and live my life fully. It's really a miracle."