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Ashley Norton has spent most of her life fighting a rare kidney disease. She had her first kidney transplant when she was 9 years old — a gift of life donated by her father. After 11 years, however, her father’s donated kidney also became affected with disease.

“It just felt like month after month I just had to watch myself slowly deteriorate,” she said.

Ashley needed a second transplant, but the odds were against her due to sensitization.

“You are exposed to human tissue and your body will build up antibodies to that meaning they are more likely to fight off other future exposure to human tissue,” said Kari Rancourt, a nurse with the Hartford Hospital Transplant Program.

Ashley’s aunt, Kelly Norton, became a living kidney donor. Although she wasn’t a direct match for Ashley, she could be a match for someone else, so the two entered into a kidney swap program.

“I never second-guessed myself on the decision,” Kelly said.

Years passed before the call came: Ashley and Kelly would become part of a seven-patient kidney chain at Hartford Hospital.

Today, Ashley has the energy to again rescue stray and abandoned dogs — her life’s passion.

“She didn’t have to do it,” Ashely said of Kelly. “I’m really lucky to have the family that I have.”

“There’s always going to be a special bond that the two of us went through this together,” said Kelly. “I’m glad I was able to do it.”

Learn more about the transplantation services available at Hartford Hospital, including living organ donation, here.

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