Ohio Daughter Donates Kidney to Save Her Dad's Life

Playing Daughter Cries in Hospital After Giving Life-Saving Kidney to Dad

For the rest of his days, John Stender will carry part of his daughter inside him.

Specifically, one of her kidneys, which she donated to save his life.

"I did it for him, but I did it for the family, too," she told InsideEdition.com Tuesday. "I want him to be here. I want him to see his grandchildren grow up. I want him to walk me down the aisle." 

Her father was diagnosed with kidney failure about two years ago, and his name was placed on a transplant list. He spent three days a week on dialysis and wasn't able to travel because his survival involved being tethered to a machine. 

The family talked among themselves about donating an organ, but John, 70, didn't want to put his loved ones through the grueling tests and subsequent surgery.

Meanwhile, his health declined. And then he ran out of options. His doctors told him he had, perhaps, two more years of life. After that, there was nothing more to be done.

"We had a real, raw, emotional conversation," Hailee said. The 30-year-old had already completed the necessary tests and was deemed a perfect match for her father. Now it was just a matter of scheduling the surgery.

On March 12, Hailee and her dad were wheeled into surgery at Cleveland Clinic Hospital. She had been told that she would feel worse than her father when she woke up. 

He was gaining a functioning organ, she was losing one.

She was not prepared, however, for the instantaneous change in her father.

She burst into tears the first time she saw him after surgery.

"He looked so good," she said. "I got so emotional. His color was better, he was more engaged and more aware. He was laughing. He looked healthy. And that was with only two days of having a kidney."

"Seeing that made everything," she said. "I would do it again in a heartbeat."

Recuperating from her major surgery has not been easy. "For a few weeks, it was intense," she said. Simply standing and walking were extremely painful. Her surgeons "cut through everything. They take some of your organs and move them over so they can get to work."

Her dad, who is a county commissioner in the family's home state of West Virginia, is staying in Cleveland while he recovers from the transplant and his physicians closely monitor him for any signs of his body rejecting the new organ.

So far, everything has been great, Hailee said.

"We go for walks," she said. "The first time we walked, I couldn't keep up with him. He was already at the end of the block and I was just standing there, " she said, laughing.

"He feels blessed." 

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