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KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -
One might not expect to receive an organ from your lover on Valentine's Day, but one Kansas City couple had a unique gift exchange of affection.
Taesha Benson, 32, gave her boyfriend, Travis Spire-Sweet, her left kidney as the ultimate gift of love.
Now 30 years old, Spire-Sweet was born with only 25 percent of a functioning kidney and wasn't expected to live past his first birthday.
After learning to cope with his chronic kidney problems, he became an advocate for other patients suffering from similar diseases and had been on the deceased donor list for more than a year.
But, thanks to the perfect match donation from his girlfriend's, he is looking forward to a healthier and longer life.
University of Kansas Hospital officials said the couple are already home from the hospital and recovering from the transplant surgery performed last week.
Benson knew even beyond their relationship that being an living organ donor was the right decision for her.
"Initially you think, ‘How could I do that? I don't have it in me,'" Benson said. "But over time I got to know Travis and his love of life. Not many people come along who have his integrity, character and optimism. Travis just happens to be my boyfriend. He has provided me with a new love of life."
Feb. 14 is universally recognized as Valentine's Day, but few are aware that National Donor Day is also celebrated that day.
National Donor Day was established in 1998 and is recognized as a time to raise awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation.
On average, 18 people die each day waiting for transplants because of a shortage of donated organs, according to statistics.
"Living donation helps in two major ways by not taking a potential deceased donor kidney from the organ pool, so it can be used for another recipient without a living donor and it provides a living donor organ for a recipient who would otherwise have to wait years for a deceased donor kidney," surgical transplantation director Dr. Sean Kumer said. "Living donor recipients enjoy a longer organ survival on average three to five years longer than the commensurate deceased donor kidney."
But thanks to donors, like Benson, an average of 79 people are able to secure life-saving organ or tissue transplants each day.