Shooting Victim’s Kidney Donation Saves Woman’s Life

Recipient meets donor's family & friends

Anthony Gabriel is a name you might recognize.  He died after a shooting near the Empire Mall back in 2015.  A jury decided the young man who pulled the trigger acted in self-defense, but the incident still resulted in a life lost.

It’s been a painful journey for Anthony’s family and friends, but after the 18-year-old’s death, they found out something very special about him– he’s helped dozens of other people as an organ donor.  This week, they got to meet a woman who owes her life to him.  On Monday, 40-year-old Cat Lee flew all the way from Alhambra, California.

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Shooting victim Anthony Gabriel

“I came here to give my gratitude and let them know I’m grateful to receive Anthony’s kidney,” she says Tuesday night, meeting Anthony’s family and friends at Pizza Ranch on 41st Street in Sioux Falls.

Since February 2015, Cat has had Anthony Gabriel’s right kidney inside of her.  She was born with only one kidney and in desperate need of a transplant after being diagnosed with end stage renal failure in 2011.  Cat searched for a donor while on dialysis until she got a call informing her that she and Anthony were a perfect match.

“I was overwhelmed with joy and yet I’m sad because I know someone had to lose a life for me to receive the kidney,” Cat explains.

Anthony’s mom, Vickey Lutz, says her son was not an organ donor before he died.  This was a family decision.  Earlier this year, she had another big choice to make: whether to respond to a letter from Cat.  Cat worked with a nonprofit to connect with Anthony’s family.

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Cat Lee & Vickey Lutz

“It took me a while.  It took me a while to write back to her.  But, once I did it’s been great, we talk all the time now, it’s been wonderful,” Vickey says.

After talking for a few months, Cat decided to visit Sioux Falls this week.  Anthony would’ve turned 20 years old on Tuesday, December 6.  He and Cat have the same birth month.  Her birthday is December 27.

“It’s wonderful that on Anthony’s birthday part of him is here to celebrate with us,” Vickey says.

Cat brought sweatshirts she had made for Anthony’s loved ones.  In just these few short days, she fell in love with this family and the young man they lost who helped her live.

“He’s very handsome, caring, loving.  He has a kind heart.  He’s my perfect match,” Cat says.

Anthony’s family says he’s helped 67 people as an organ donor.  They hope his story inspires others to become donors as well.