After donating his kidney to a complete stranger and starting a kidney donation chain with seven recipients across the country, Pastor Jeff Smith says he is "90 percent recovered" and would "100 percent do it again."

Smith, pastor of the Living Word Lutheran Church in Petaluma, donated his kidney on Sept. 5, at the University of California, San Francisco Parnassus campus, to a man he later learned has a 3-year-old daughter.

"The recipient turned out to be a 52-year-old father of two grown boys in southern California, who also has a 3-year-old adopted daughter," said Smith this week. "His daughter has sickle-cell anemia and he said that this has enabled him to be a father to her again."

After their successful surgeries, Smith's kidney recipient reached out to him through their donation coordinator and has corresponded with Smith several times. While the two have been recovering from their procedures, they've also been learning about one another's lives and families.

"He was telling me that when he was going into the surgery, his 3-year-old was with him," said Smith, his voice quiet with emotion. "His daughter said to the nurse &‘My daddy's getting a new kidney today and I've been praying for that.' And he said he couldn't help but tear up."

Even Smith's wife, Karen, who Smith describes as someone who "doesn't wear her emotions on her sleeve," had tears in her eyes when Smith talked about his recipient's young daughter and her joy at Smith's decision to donate a kidney to her father. Karen Smith, a registered nurse, has been helping her husband during his recovery, which Smith said is progressing well.

Smith was up and walking the night after his surgery and even walked a few laps around the surgery unit. Within two days, he was back at home, though typical hospital stays are four days after such a procedure. Though he missed church the first Sunday following his surgery, he said that attended service as an audience member the second Sunday and was back at the pulpit by the fourth Sunday.

Smith said that he feels approximately 90 percent recovered, just eight weeks after surgery, and added that even if complications had arisen from his surgery, he would still do it again — especially after hearing how his decision has affected the recipient's life.

"The idea that I could help someone else's family, that a little girl can get her father back physically, makes me know that I would do it again, even if things hadn't gone as well as they have," said Smith.

For more information on kidney donation chains, visit

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