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Lyndhurst Woman Saves 4 Lives With Kidney Donation To Honor Late Father, Jersey City Officer

Gianna Graw, 24, of Lyndhurst, saved four lives when she donated a kidney in honor of her late father, a former Jersey City police officer.
Gianna Graw, 24, of Lyndhurst, saved four lives when she donated a kidney in honor of her late father, a former Jersey City police officer. Photo Credit: Hackensack Meridian Health

A Lyndhurst woman who recently donated a kidney in honor of her late father, a Jersey City police officer, saved four lives when she ignited a “zig-zagging bi-coastal chain” of donations across the country.

Gianna Graw, a 24-year-old grad student in higher education at Montclair State, wanted to honor her father — a Jersey City police officer who died in 2016 — by donating a kidney to another officer in need.

“My dad dedicated his life to helping others, and I wanted to find a way to honor him and live his legacy,” she said.

But finding out that the officer had already found a suitable donor didn’t stop her from pursuing the donation anyway. After researching the process thoroughly, Graw started preparing with the necessary medical tests.

“I met with a social worker, a psychologist, a pharmacist, and a nephrologist — and they did lots and lots of tests to make sure I was healthy enough to donate,” she said.

Graw went through with the donation Dec. 9 as Hackensack University Medical Center’s first “good samaritan” patient with the National Kidney Registry (NKR), which helps find matches for kidney donors.

“By connecting our recipients with matching kidneys from across the U.S. and facilitating good samaritan donations, NKR gives people with end-stage kidney disease a second chance,” said David Serur, M.D., Medical Director of HUMC’s Kidney Transplant Program. “Through advanced matching techniques and the creation of nationwide donor chains, individual donors like Gianna can have a positive impact on several lives.” 

And that’s precisely what, Graw did: her donation set off a chain reaction of four additional transplants in Los Angeles, CA; Tampa, FL; back to Los Angeles, CA; and finally, San Francisco, CA.

“It was an incredible moment,” said Gianna. “I knew I wanted to do it, and I also knew that someone was counting on me to save their life — as well as three other people in the chain who were also counting on me.”

Now, she has fully recovered from the operation and hopes to encourage and inspire others to step up as “good samaritan” donors.

“Raising awareness of kidney donation is important to me, and I hope others hear my story and say, ‘This is something I can do,’” she said. “But it’s really my dad who deserves all the credit because he inspired me with his kindness and compassion.”

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