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Butler Co. couple unsure how they'll pay for kidney transplant, but thankful for stranger's kindness

Posted at 7:07 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 10:53:37-05

A year ago, Aaron Thorn was on a Butler County road, holding a sign begging for a kidney to save his wife, Keli. Now, she is 28 days away from a transplant, thanks to a stranger who saw a Facebook post.

Now, that couple is paying it forward by connecting a different couple in search of a kidney with a donor.

"Just about every day, I get a call from someone in tears, saying, 'Look, my husband or my wife or my son are in desperate need,' and, you know, my heart goes out to them because this is something I went through, and they don't know what to do," Aaron Thorn told WCPO.

WCPO first reported on Aaron and Keli a year ago, when Aaron took to the busy stretch of Princeton Road outside Bridgewater Falls in Fairfield with a sign and a mission. Months later, the Thorns' posts on social media found a donor in Pittsburgh, Penn.

It's not the only impact the Thorns' postings yielded out of the Pittsburgh area. Dave and Cathy Collwell, who live near Pittsburgh, spotted the Thorns' posts after Dave went into the hospital needing a kidney transplant of his own.

"I noticed it because it said Butler County, and I'm in Butler County. But we're in Butler County P-A.," Cathy Collwell said.

That's when Aaron posted the Collwells' call for a kidney on his own Facebook page. In December, they found a donor for Dave.

"It's not thanking someone, per se. It's about helping somebody else. That's what this life is about, just reaching out and doing something for someone else."

The coronavirus pandemic, however, can pose some challenges for situations like Keli Thorn's.

"So far, we've had to cancel some surgeries because people have become (COVID-19) positive before coming in," said UC Health transplant surgeon Dr. Latifa Silsky. "But that's why we test everybody."

With strict safety protocols, UC Health doctors see another challenge also worsened by the pandemic: money. Some patients are losing jobs and the ability to pay.

That's where the Thorns -- standing ready with a donor available -- stood Tuesday, not sure how they will pay for the transplant scheduled for early next month.

"Reach out to the community around you. You are loved more than you will ever, ever know. You are loved," Aaron Thorn said.