A Narrative in Four Parts

Would you give a kidney for a family member? A close friend? An acquaintance? What about a complete stranger?

Over 100,000 people in the United States are currently awaiting a kidney donation. One person is added to the list every 14 minutes. Most of the kidneys donated come from deceased donors. But in 2014, 5,538 came from live donors. Out of those, only 725 of these are unrelated donors. That’s only thirteen percent. That’s what makes the story of Elizabeth and Mary so uncommon. They don’t know each other, they don’t even live in the same state.

Lea Thau of Strangers explores the world of altruistic organ donation, following the story of Elizabeth and Mary. This includes the pressure that Elizabeth faced, both from people who were confused at her decision to go through a major operation and the fact that Mary wasn’t exactly the typical recipient. And Elizabeth was the target of a social media frenzy after their story came out. Why? Partially because altruists make us uncomfortable. Seeing someone do something selfless for a stranger puts our own generosity into peril. Yes, you might volunteer one Saturday every month at your local community garden, but that’s nothing compared to giving an organ.

This four part saga intricately examines the journey of Elizabeth and Mary, the complications faced along the way, and the aftermath.

Part One . Part Two . Part Three . Part Four

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