Research Medical Center
February 15, 2016

Michelle Torgerson was pregnant with triplets when her dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

John Iennaccaro, a stubborn Italian-American auto executive, lived long enough to meet the babies and to go on one last deer hunt with his best friend, Donald Burns. He died 18 years ago at the age of 50.

Michelle, who lives in Kansas City, would have done anything to save her dad. But she couldn’t give him a pancreas, and because of his cancer, John wasn’t eligible for a transplant from a deceased donor.

So two years ago, when Michelle found out that Donald needed a kidney and that he shared her blood type, the mother of four became determined to give him one of hers.

“I was going to do it,” she says. “I love him that much.”

The life-saving gift brought the two families even closer together.

“John was as close as any brother,” Donald says. “I can’t think of a family I’d rather be a part of.”

Since their successful transplant in 2014, Michelle and Donald have becoming advocates for living donation. Their story of love, friendship and sacrifice is fitting for Valentine’s Day, which, not coincidentally, is also National Donor Day.

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