Plea for kidney donation brings together two strangers, creates a lifelong friendship

Two Lakeview High School graduates form a special bond after Chris Hutchison agrees to give Michelle Romans his kidney. (Courtesy: Chris Hutchison)

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - They started as basically strangers and became lifelong friends. In the end, an attempt at a kidney donation changed both of their lives.

Chris Hutchison said it was pure luck. He rarely goes on Facebook, but the one day he decided to log on and look around he saw a post that caught his attention.

The posted read in part, “see if you can find it in your heart to see if you can match or help my friend Michelle Romans find a kidney.”

He said the name was very familiar.

“It was because there was a Michelle Romans in my class," said Hutchinson.

He did some research by going to his old Lakeview High School yearbook. It turns out, she was an underclassman, one he did not really know. One that, years after that yearbook photo was taken, would need a miracle.

Romans said her journey has been a long, hard road. She is a diabetic, was diagnosed with kidney failure, is on dialysis and waiting on a long transplant list. She needed a kidney desperately, and her luck was about to change because Hutchison decided to contact her.

“I recognized the name, but I didn’t remember him at all,” Romans said.

A man she barely knew was offering her his kidney. A gesture that meant a lot to both of them.

“It was like, when you see your friends suffering from cancer or family members and you can’t do anything, but I knew I could so something. And I wanted to try," said Hutchison.

But as Hutchison was trying to make someone else’s life better, he was unknowingly putting his own at risk. During the transplant procedure, something out of the ordinary happened. His heart rate dropped dangerously low, forcing doctors to stop everything.

Romans was shocked and scared when she found out.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy is willing to do all this for me and I just hope and pray that nothing has happened to him,'" said Romans.

Hutchison was okay, but after all they had been through, he could no longer give Romans his kidney.

“It’s a lot to go through for nothing,” Hutchison said with tear-filled eyes. “I just wanted to help.”

But ultimately, he did. Romans said Hutchison's generosity gave her hope that one day she will find the right donor and until she does, she will have the support of a new friend.

“I can live on a machine, doing a dialysis machine,” Romans said. “And that’s all I could think of was, 'I’m going to be okay. As long as he’s okay, then everything is good.'”

“I’d like to think we’ve got a friendship that going to last a really long time,” Hutcison said. “And I’m glad for that.”

Since going through and ending the transplant process with Hutchison, Romans has found another donor and is in the process of potentially receiving a kidney.

Hutchison said he does not regret going through the process and encourages others do consider becoming a donor.

“You can help,” he said. “You can live a healthy life with one kidney, you can’t do it with zero.”

Chris Hutchison and Michelle Romans worked with doctors at the University of Michigan Transplant Center.

Friends are holding a benefit event featuring a psychic medium for Michelle on Friday at the Cricket Club (36 Michigan Ave. W.) in Battle Creek. The event starts at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Tickets are $20 and available online or at the door. You can find more information here.

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