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Highlands Ranch teenager hoping to pay it forward after kidney donation

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. -- A teenager is hoping to pay it forward.  She received a kidney donation from a total stranger, and is now thriving.   But she cannot forget her dear friend at Children’s Hospital Colorado who is just 13 years old and in need of the same kind of miracle.

When you see Jillian Laplante and Adrian Francisco in the dialysis wing of Children’s Hospital Colorado, it is obvious that they are good friends with a lot in common.  Both teens suffered kidney failure at a young age, and have spent huge amounts of time there.  But now they are on very different paths.

While Adrian is still desperately waiting for a kidney transplant, Jillian is enjoying her new life.  She received a kidney donation from a total stranger who lived just a few miles away, named Chrissie Smith.

“If this were my child, I would want someone like myself to step forward,“ Smith said.

The mother of four from Highlands Ranch says the whole thing started one year ago when she saw a bumper sticker that said: Teen Needs Kidney, Type O blood.

“As soon as I saw it I thought -- that’s me, like that’s me.  So  I handed my cellphone to my son and I told him to take a picture,” she said.

There was only a 2 percent chance that Chrissie would be a match, but she is deeply religious, and says in that moment, she just knew it was meant to be, and she was right.

In the spring, Chrissie had surgery at University of Colorado Hospital, and doctors took the kidney to Children’s Hospital to complete the transplant.

“It’s unbelievable that a complete stranger would come forward and be so willing to save someone else,” Jillian said.

Now the 17-year-old is enjoying a pretty normal life at Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, but she wants the same for Adrian.

“He’s been doing this forever, and he is still so positive, and just wants to be a healthy kid again,” she said.

Adrian has needed dialysis since the age of 2, and it’s a tough situation.  His family drives to Children’s Hospital from Fort Morgan four times a week so Adrian can go through dialysis for four hours each time.

“It’s hard.  I just want to get my kidney,” Adrian said.

Jillian and Chrissie are hoping to help with that.  They wants to raise awareness about live kidney donation.

“It’s not difficult, and  there’s not a whole lot of change that you have to make in your life after surgery, and you will have a huge blessing in knowing that you have saved someone else’s life,” Chrissie said.

If you would like to be tested to see if you are a match for Adrian, call the University of Colorado Kidney Transplant Program at 720-848-0855.  More than 100,000 people in this country are currently waiting for kidney transplants, and the average wait time for a deceased donor is three to five years.