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Alton Man Gives Kidney to Wife’s Best Friend on Valentine’s Day

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ALTON, Ill. (AP) - Paul Wallace wasn’t focused on giving his wife chocolates or flowers on Valentine’s Day. Instead, the southwestern Illinois man gave her best friend a kidney.

During a roughly six-hour procedure Tuesday, surgeons at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis transplanted one of the Alton man’s kidneys into Vanessa Vassar, his wife’s 40-year-old childhood friend now living in Mattoon. Both donor and recipient are expected to be released from the hospital within a few days.

Sara Wallace said the generosity isn’t surprising from her husband, whom she insists “would give anybody anything.” She said she and Vassar grew up going to the same church and school.

“He’s amazing,” she said. “I’m excited for Vanessa. I don’t think she knows how good she’s going to feel. I’m proud of Paul for doing this.”

It’s been about a decade since Vassar was diagnosed with a condition that caused her body to produce abnormal proteins, damaging her kidneys.

Sara Wallace said that when she told her husband her friend needed a kidney, he volunteered without hesitation.

“I just want to say thank you,” said Vassar, a child-care consultant with Life Links Inc., a nonprofit specializing in providing health care to the needy. “It’s the best gift that I could get from somebody.”

Wallace will be away from his job with the Alton Public Works Department for about four weeks, then will be on restricted duties when he does return to work. Vassar also will be able to go back to work in about a month.

When it comes to donating an organ, “not many people have the chance to step up to the plate, and when they do, they don’t,” said Dr. Surendra Shenoy, who removed Wallace’s kidney during the procedure. “When there is someone who does, it’s remarkable and life-changing.”

Vassar’s dad, Henry Vassar of Godfrey, added: “It’s a godsend.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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