Everyday Heroes

Meet the Woman Who Donated Life -- Twice

Woman meets the man who got her kidney. But there's a lot more to this story!

It's kind of hard to know where to start with Laura Gillum's story, and once you hear it you'll know why. A few weeks ago, Laura, who is from Canonsburg, PA, gave one of her kidneys to 39-year old Brian Cox of Aliquippa, PA in a transplant at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Brian had been living on dialysis ever since doctors diagnosed him with kidney failure three years ago. Today they met for the first time:

Laura's story of organ donation goes back even further. In 2015, she and her husband Paul lost their 2-year old son Dean (below) when he accidentally fell into the family's backyard swimming pool. The Gillums decided to donate Dean's liver, kidneys and his heart, which went to then-six-month-old Lennon Cureton of South Carolina.

The Gillums and Curetons met in 2017, and the story made national news when Laura held a stethoscope to little Lennon's chest and heard her son Dean's heartbeat once again.

Brian had no idea about that part of the transplant story until he met Laura today:

Laura decided to offer one of her kidneys in an altruistic live donor transplant after seeing what a difference her son's heart made for the Cureton family. Her AB blood type matched only one transplant patient in the whole country: Brian, who live just 45 minutes away in the next county!

Laura refused to put off the transplant, even though she and her husband just adopted a new baby!

In another twist, the Gillum family, who were unable to have more children after Dean's death, just adopted their new baby daughter Zoe in January. Soon after, Brian came up as a transplant match, and friends told Laura she ought to wait a little bit. Laura insisted on going ahead, unwilling to take the risk that Brian could die if they delayed. She's passionate about live-donor transplantation:

Brian says he feels better than he has in years, and will be able to joyfully achieve his short-term goal of attending his daughter Bria's Aliquippa High School graduation this spring. Long term he wants to get back to work and be there for his other daughter, 14-year old Kiki and his girlfriend Imani.

Brian admits he had no idea how long he'd survive without a transplant.

And Brian's now an honorary uncle to little Zoe, who he met for the first time today too!

In addition to enjoying baby Zoe, Laura's moving full steam ahead on the foundation she set up after Dean's death. "Breathing for Burrito" (Dean's nickname) funds free CPR, AED and Heimlich training classes. Click here to learn more.

Learn more about organ donation and sign up to be a donor by going to the Donate Life website (click here), or locally to the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) website (click here). April is National Donate Life Month.

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