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NWI woman responsible for 9 organ transplants
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NWI woman responsible for 9 organ transplants

Christine Graf soon might be able to take credit for saving nine lives.

It was all inspired by the life she wasn't able to save.

In late 2015, she was working at her factory job when a 29-year-old co-worker collapsed. Graf, a former firefighter who lives in Schererville, performed CPR on him but couldn't revive him.

She was devastated by the loss.

In the months to follow, she helped get a first-aid room built at her workplace, bring in four automated defibrillators and train 30 of her co-workers in CPR.

Still, she wanted to do more.

Her late co-worker suffered from kidney disease and diabetes. She learned that more than 100,000 people are on a waiting list for a kidney transplant and that 13 of those people die every day.

So, in his honor, she decided to donate a kidney to a stranger.

She had to undergo a year of screening to test her health and compatibility, eventually finding a match.

Because that woman had a willing donor who wasn't compatible, Graf's gift will set in motion a chain of transplants that will give eight other people kidneys.

Graf's surgery is scheduled for this month at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She decided to make her story public to encourage other people to consider becoming a live organ donor.

"You can donate part of your liver, your lung, your pancreas," she said. "So many people are in desperate need."

Her husband, Eric, was nervous when she first told him. Any surgery comes with risks.

"I remember the day the day my attitude changed," he recalled. "Chris said, 'If I would have known that lady was going to wait (for a kidney) I would have done it ... years ago.'"

He said the donation is typical of Christine's character. She has previously organized fundraisers for community members going through difficult times.

"Christine puts others before herself," Eric said. "It's a wonderful thing she's doing. The family and I are very proud of this."

After the transplant, the mother of three plans to volunteer for local organ donation organizations. Her sister started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for organ donor awareness groups.

"I hope I'm able to inspire other people to do the same thing, even giving blood," Graf said. "There are so many people in need of blood, plasma, bone marrow."

During her surgery, she'll have a picture of her late co-worker with her.

"That's where this all began," she said. "I couldn't save him, so I wanted to save somebody else. I'm blessed I'm going to be able to help change a few people's lives."

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Health Reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

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