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Miami University professor donates $5,000 to pay for stranger's kidney transplant

WCPO thorn family.png
Kidney for Keli
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 06:00:26-05

Aaron Thorn spent months holding a sign on Princeton Road in search of a kidney donor who could help his wife, Keli. They found one — but on Tuesday, 28 days from her surgery, the couple wasn’t sure how they would pay their $5,000 insurance deductible.

Miami University assistant professor Pamela Chisum saw them on WCPO that night. Her father, Clay Chisum, had been the recipient of a heart valve replacement before his death in 2018. She knew she could cover Thorn's deductible with the inheritance he left her.

I can help them, she thought.

Then: No, I’m not going to do this. Chisum is in the final year of her employment contract with Miami University and preparing to face a COVID-destabilized job market. Like many Americans, she said she feels especially conscious of her financial situation entering 2021.

But then, with certainty: Yes, I am.

“With all the deaths going on with COVID, I thought, ‘I’ve got a little bit of money,’” she said. “I can really make a difference for this family. … Keeping this money for myself made no sense in the long run.”

Chisum on Wednesday gifted the Thorns the $5,000 they needed, ensuring Keli Thorn can receive the life-saving transplant.

Keli spent much of the day at dialysis and was unavailable to comment, but her husband, Aaron, said their family has never felt as loved as they do now.

Chisum said the COVID-19 pandemic has given her a heightened awareness of her own mortality. She wants to do good with the time and resources she has on Earth.

“No, I don’t know her,” Chisum said of Keli Thorn. “That doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. Here is somebody who is in need of something, and I can help them, and I did it.”