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Pennsylvania Soccer Mom Saves Soccer Dad’s Life With New ‘Paired Kidney Donation’

The donation let her save two lives at once.


When Yardley, Pennsylvania soccer mom Molly Gray found out that a team member’s father needed a new kidney, she was among the first to offer one of hers. Though not a match, she was undeterred.

The father, Dan Napoleon, had shared a post on Facebook requesting help from potential donors. In the post, he explained that chronic hypertension and diabetes had weakened his kidneys to the point that he required dialysis three times a week. Recently, however, things had worsened, and he needed a kidney transplant. A living donor was preferred, but his wife, Sharon, and other family members weren’t a match.

Molly’s son, Cooper, and Dan’s son, Brandon, played on the same traveling soccer team. Between practices and overnight trips, their parents had become close friends. Dan was active and known within the group as a gentle spirit with a larger-than-life personality, which is why Molly was surprised to learn he was dealing with health issues.

The middle school counselor and single mom of three, quickly responded to Dan’s Facebook post, offering to get tested to see if she was a match for kidney donation. She wasn’t the only one to reach out. Dan’s post was shared hundreds of times, and dozens of people across the country offered to get tested. One test proved compatible, but the procedure fell through when the donor kidney was deemed too small for Dan. Unfortunately, none of the other potential donors — Molly included —were a suitable match. (Dan and Molly weren’t the same blood type.)

Molly, however, was not deterred. During her testing, she recalled that a hospital worker told her how hard it is for Black men and women to find donor organs. The need outpaced the number of potential donors, she explained, which yielded sobering statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services that spotlight deep racial disparities. While donations can be made across races, “same-ethnicity donors and recipients are more likely to be clinical matches for transplant,” according to Health Affairs. This gave Molly an idea.

A Surprising Solution: Paired Kidney Donation

Determined to help her friend, Molly began researching paired kidney donation, wherein two donors and two recipients partner up. (A typical kidney donation involves one donor and one recipient.) The National Kidney Foundation describes it this way: “If the recipient from one pair is compatible with the donor from the other pair, and vice versa — the transplant center may arrange for a ‘swap’ — for two simultaneous transplants to take place. This allows two transplant recipients to receive living donor kidneys and two donors to still be able to donate, though the original recipient/donor pairs were unable to do so with each other.”

The concept renewed Molly’s faith. She shared her idea with Dan, gifting him a kidney bean in a tiny jewelry box. Soon after, a suitable organ for Dan was located as part of a paired kidney donation.

“I love the way things worked out,” says Molly. “I got to help my friend, and instead of one life, I got to save two.”

Molly Gray and Dan Napoleon posing in hospital following their kidney donation surgeries
Molly Gray and Dan Napoleon smile after their surgeries.Courtesy of Molly Gray and Dan Napoleon

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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