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Barista donates kidney to save customer's life

  • Story Highlights
  • Nearly 75,000 Americans need a kidney transplant
  • Annamarie Ausnes told her story to a worker at her regular coffee shop
  • The barista, Sandra Andersen, tested and found out she was a potential donor
  • Both are doing well after a transplant procedure on March 11
  • Next Article in Living »
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TACOMA, Washington (CNN) -- At a time when she really needed a miracle, Annamarie Ausnes found one in an unusual place.

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Sandra Andersen, right, donated a kidney to Annamarie Ausnes.

Last fall, Ausnes, 55, was one of nearly 75,000 Americans in need of a kidney. Today, she is recovering from a successful kidney transplant -- thanks to her local Starbucks barista.

Sandra Andersen only knew Ausnes as her upbeat morning customer who always ordered a short cup of coffee. What Andersen didn't know was that Ausnes suffers from a genetic kidney disease called polycystic kidney disease. When both of her kidneys began failing, she was placed on a kidney transplant waiting list.

"I was kinda losing a little hope," said Ausnes.

Her next step would be dialysis.

"I'd read the statistics. People have been waiting on dialysis for many, many years before a donor comes forth. I felt like the control was being taken away from me," Ausnes said. "But I did have control over one thing, and I knew how to pray. And I just started praying for someone; for God to please send me an angel."

Andersen recalls one particular morning last October when her customer's normally cheerful demeanor had changed.

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"I could tell that she just wasn't feeling real well," said Andersen. "So I asked her what was wrong."

Across the counter, Ausnes confided in her barista: Her kidneys were failing rapidly and no one in her family was a match. Without hesitation, Andersen said she would test for her.

Ausnes remembers the moment vividly.

"She threw her hands up in the air. She said, 'I'm testing. I'm going to test for you.' And it was a complete shock to me."

Even more so because Andersen didn't even know Ausnes' name. Andersen can't explain it either.

"I just knew in my heart, I can't tell you why. I knew I had to find out as much info as possible," recalls Andersen. Video Watch Ausnes recall how she met her "miracle donor." »

After getting her blood tested, she signed a release to become an organ donor and began an interview process to move forward. Then the day came when she was able to break the good news to Ausnes.

"She walked in to get her short cup of coffee. I said, 'I'm a match,' and we both just stood there and bawled," said Andersen. "From that day forward we knew this was gonna happen."

On March 11, Andersen and Ausnes underwent a kidney transplant at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, Washington. The surgery was successful.

"We are doing well!" Ausnes said Monday night. "We're moving slower but we feel good. I talk to Sandie every day, and sometimes I sit here and bawl because of what she's gone through for me."Video Watch how Andersen's gift became 'A kidney named Rose.' »

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Andersen says her kidney started working faster in Ausnes than the hospital expected.

"Annamarie is doing better than me! I'm just trying to do too much," laughs Andersen, explaining why she's tired. "We're just excited to get together for lunch sometime soon!" Video Watch Andersen and Ausnes describe the best kind of donor » E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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