There’s something about this meeting that feels a bit like Alcoholics Anonymous, or some other support group.
“My name is Melissa," one woman tells the group. “I’m a real newbie. I just donated February 11, 2016.”
What these 25 or so people have in common is something a little different. They’ve all donated an organ to someone. Some of them gave to a spouse, parent, friend or even a coworker. Researchers announced this week that they’ve successfully kept a pig’s heart alive inside a baboon for more than two years. The transplant is a step towards possible animal-to-human organ transplants. For now, humans must rely on each other.

Elizabeth Swanson wanted to donate to her cousin, but she wasn’t a match. So her kidney became part of a chain.
“We ended up actually being in a chain of 26 kidneys, 58 people," Swanson said. "And mine went to Cleveland. It’s out there—lefty’s out there in the world somewhere."
Swanson's cousin got someone else’s kidney.
“I take it for granted that I did it, because it wasn’t that difficult," she said. "It was a short time in my life when I wasn’t feeling great, I was tired. But then, it helped save my cousins and basically other people’s lives as well, so it’s pretty powerful.”
That’s the thing about giving a kidney—usually it’s not that hard. Full disclosure: I gave a kidney to my mom four years ago. It was a few days before mother’s day, and my brother joked I’d really outdone him for a gift that year. The transplant was a huge success, and it doesn’t affect me at all today, but I don’t really talk about it a lot. I asked the room if anyone else felt like they wanted to tell their donation story, but didn’t want to sound like they were bragging about what they’d done, and was met with a resounding “yes!"
Some of the people in the room did have a much harder time with the recovery than I did, but nobody regretted doing it. Kidney donations are done laparoscopically now, which means an incision about an inch and-a half long along the belt line, and two tiny incisions higher up where the instruments go. But a lot of people here, like Darlene Murphy, say they got some negative reactions from people wondering why they wouldn't save the kidney, in case a family member needed it.
"I’m going, ‘No, there’s someone who needs it now, I can do it, why wouldn’t I do it?’” she said.
Other people were warned against having a surgery they didn’t actually need. Like any surgery, there can be some serious medical risks.
Jamie Carroll's one of just a few liver donors in the room, giving his to his father in 2014. Liver donors give a part of the organ to the recipient, and it regenerates in both bodies. It’s a more invasive surgery than retrieving a kidney, and has a harder recovery. Carroll and his wife have two young kids.

“My wife didn’t talk to me," he said. "She was horrified.”
His father needed the transplant because he was an alcoholic.
“So she was kind of like, ‘he had his chance, but you’re going to bail him at the risk of our family. And the only person in my house who talked to me about doing it was my son, and he was like ‘When are we going to save Papa?’”
Carroll says at the last minute, his wife came around to it.
“The night before the surgery she actually just wandered out of my room, came back, and was like, 'I understand why we’re doing this,’" she said. "She went down to see my dad. And she was like, ‘I get it.’”
Both Carroll and his father are doing great. Not every donor has such a personal connection with their recipient. I think Nicolette Dailey is one of the really remarkable ones. One day she read an article about someone who volunteered to give to an anonymous stranger, and she was inspired. She found out the recipient’s insurance covers everything, and went to the National Kidney Registry’s website to find out what to do. Less than three months later, she was in Massachusetts General Hospital.
“I don’t know anyone else who’s ever done this," she said. "And I’ve never—I don’t know how my kidney is out there doing in the world. So I’m just super excited to see everyone and have someone to share this kind of background or feeling or emotion with.”

Dailey says she saw an opportunity to really improve someone else’s life—and she took it.