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Pa. soldier recovering after donating liver to veteran - abc27 WHTM

Pa. soldier recovering after donating portion of liver to veteran

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Photo courtesy of Yale New-Haven Hospital Photo courtesy of Yale New-Haven Hospital

A Pennsylvania National Guard soldier who donated a portion of her live to a random Vietnam veteran is recovering at home after spending three weeks in New Haven, Connecticut, where she had the surgery.

The 36-year-old soldier, who wants to remain anonymous, allowed abc27 to follow her to Yale-New Haven Transplantation Center and speak with her three days after Dr. Sukru Emre successfully removed 60 percent of her liver and transplanted it to the only Vietnam veteran on the hospital's list who matched her blood type.

Her best friend and fellow soldier, Danielle Klinger, says it's an unbelievable way to pay it forward.

"I think when you get to that point where you realize that you are willing to give up your life or risk your life to save a friend or fellow vet, that's kind of all of what it's about," Klinger said.

The soldier and her recipient, though generations apart, were separated by just one wall during the long, complicated surgery.

"We do this operation in overlapping fashion so the donor/recipient pairs and then one goes a little early, and one goes a little later," Emre said.

"We went walking around this morning and the whole floor but I just tried to not look in any of the rooms (for my recipient). I just really needed to get my exercise," she said. "I'm happy for him, I really am."

Before she went under, however, he had a nurse deliver one message.

"He said to tell me "Semper Fi," which is a Marine term. So he must be a Marine, which is interesting to know about him," she said.

For a proud soldier who's always giving, that message is more than enough.

"To see the smile on her face every time they tell her the recipient's doing well, it's hard -- you almost have to choke back the tears cause because she's just so happy for him," Klinger said. "It's always about other people and she's an amazing person. You don't meet many people like her."

Now, entering into nearly a year-long road to recovery, her only hope is that even one person who sees her story will take a minute to pay it forward.

"Saying thank you is enough," she said. "If people feel the need to more, that's great, but just saying thank you -- it's a big deal. We can't forget the older fellahs who came before -- the men and women that came before --- we can't forget them."

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