By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When Katie Shatusky’s brother Chad received a life-saving kidney, she decided to pay it forward in an inspiring way.

“It wasn’t really up until about two years ago that the doctors said, ‘You know, you got about a year, year and a half,’ which was actually kind of a shock to our family,” Shatusky said.

Her brother had been struggling with polycystic kidney disease for about 20 years, a condition that runs in the family. As time was slipping away, a fellow Elk River firefighter came to his rescue.

“He stepped up to the plate and decided to get tested,” Shatusky said. “I was tested as a match for my brother, but he was a better match.”

She had always planned to give her brother a kidney. And even though that was taken care of, her desire to pay it forward only grew stronger.

“I still knew that in my heart I wanted to donate to somebody else,” she said.

Through Facebook she found out about Joel Johnson, a father of two whose kidneys were failing rapidly.

“It’s an autoimmune disease that attacks the kidneys like they’re a foreign object,” Johnson said.

Shatusky soon discovered she was a match for Johnson, and without hesitating, she told him she was ready to be his donor.

“It was an overwhelming feeling just of happiness and relief,” Johnson said.

Shatusky gave Johnson a new lease on life last month at the University of Minnesota. Once strangers, they are now connected by a kidney.

“I’m able to eat and I can play with the kids, and we can plan stuff. It’s been wonderful,” Johnson said.

Over the years, five people in Shatusky’s family have received a kidney donation. She’s grateful to be on the giving side of things.

“I know this is a gift for him, but it’s just as much a gift for me,” Shatusky said. “I felt like God kind of had a plan all along, that it was supposed to be Joel.”

Both Johnson and Shatusky want to thank doctors at the University of Minnesota Fairview. They hope this story, and Shatusky’s brother’s story, inspire others to donate.

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John Lauritsen

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