Penn Hills Woman to Donate Kidney to Man She Never Met

By Togneri, Chris | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 13, 2009 | Go to article overview

Penn Hills Woman to Donate Kidney to Man She Never Met


Togneri, Chris, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Nancy Murrell has a blurry digital photo of Anthony Cottman she can call up on her iPhone.

Murrell has never met the 45-year-old Brooklyn resident and has only spoken to him a few times. Yet, later this month, she will undergo surgery in New York City to give Cottman one of her kidneys.

And she doesn't think there's anything odd about that at all.

"This is something I think any human being would do," said Murrell, 47, of Penn Hills, a marketing manager for the Downtown legal firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.

"There are people who are suffering, and this is something I can easily do. I'm in great health. I've had great opportunities in my life to do many things. This is my karmic payback to the universe."

Murrell is what transplant experts call an "altruistic donor," or someone who gives an organ to anyone in need, even strangers, simply because she can.

"There are lots of folks that are, quite honestly, just good Samaritans," said Angela Barber, a living kidney donor coordinator at UPMC's Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute. "I've had people who called me and said, 'I want to donate to anyone on the list. ... I just want to give back.'"

Murrell got the idea after hearing an interview with Chaya Lipschutz of Brooklyn on National Public Radio. Lipschutz donated her kidney in 2005 to a stranger after reading an advertisement in a weekly paper and now acts as a liaison between donors and recipients through a Web site that connects the two.

Cottman always figured he'd be the person on the giving side.

"My view was that I was going to give someone my kidney," he said. "I never thought I'd need one."

Now he has anemia and suffers through 12 hours of dialysis a week. The treatment -- while lifesaving -- makes working nearly impossible. And it complicates everything in his life, from finding time to "be spontaneous" and go to movies with friends, to simply falling asleep at night and waking up in the morning.

"It is really difficult," said Cottman, who worked in the fashion industry before he fell ill in 2004. "I just put blinders on and went through it. …

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