Facebook post inspires Knoxville mother to donate kidney to stranger

All a Knox County corrections officer wanted for Christmas was a new kidney. After seeing a WATE 6 On Your Side Facebook post, a mother decided to donate.

Officer Michael Norton and Maryanne Ridenour at UT Medical Center.
Officer Michael Norton and Maryanne Ridenour at UT Medical Center.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – WATE 6 On Your Side first spoke to Corrections Officer Michael Norton with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department just days before Christmas. All he wanted for the holidays was a new Kidney.

Officer Norton got his wish after the story caught the eye of a young mother, Maryanne Ridenour. She saw the story on the WATE 6 On Your Side Facebook page and decided to see if she was a match.

Previous story: Knox County corrections officer wants kidney for Christmas

WATE 6 On Your Side Facebook page post on Officer Michael Norton (Facebook)
WATE 6 On Your Side Facebook page post on Officer Michael Norton (Facebook)

“I liked you guys,” said Ridenour. “I follow you guys on Facebook and there was title that said sheriff’s deputy needs kidney for Christmas or wants kidney and I thought that was really unusual, so I clicked on it, read his story and he needed a kidney and I thought, ‘I can do this’ and so I called the transplant center to start the process.”

After University of Tennessee’s transplant center determined Ridenour could physically and mentally handle donating a kidney and discovered she and the hard working officer were a perfect match, surgery was set for February 24. The surgery was only eight weeks after Ridenour made the life changing decision to donate.

“I didn’t believe it at first,” said Norton. “I thought it can’t be true, not this fast.”

Ridenour said she wasn’t nervous about donating. “I had no fear,” she said. “I felt like I was supposed to do this.”

Dr. Alex Cantafio, the surgeon who performed the operation, said the procedure went well and the outlook is good. “I couldn’t say enough good things,” said Cantafio. “They’re both doing really, really well.”

Officer Michael Norton with the Knox County Sheriff's Department
Officer Michael Norton with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department

What made Ridenour decide to give such an enormous gift? She says it was his attitude. “He was still working and trying to be active and positive,” she said. “[He] just seemed like a normal guy, just like me and my family.”

Despite his kidneys only functioning at 13 percent, Norton always had a big smile on his face. He credits his fellow officers for keeping him going while he waited to find a match.

“She’s my guardian angel now. I mean, you could never thank her enough for what she done,” said Norton.

There are around 250 people on East Tennessee’s kidney transplant list. For more information on becoming a donor visit University of Tennessee’s Transplant Services or call (865) 305-9236.

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