By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Thirty-million Americans have chronic kidney disease and most don’t know, but one South Jersey woman made a personal sacrifice to help those in need.

For patients with advanced diseases, transplants from living donors provide the best odds.

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Linda Hughes knows what it feels like to give the gift of life seven times. It’s a mission she took on after a Facebook post inspired her to become a kidney donor.

“It was something that I had thought about before, I considered being a kidney donor and when I saw that post I basically said, ‘OK, now is the time,'” Hughes recalls.

linda hughes kidney donor South Jersey Woman Saves Seven Lives With Organ Donor Chain

Credit: CBS3

The post was from a mother pleading for her daughter and while Hughes, who works at Bayada, wasn’t a perfect match for Jamie, she decided to help anyone.

She decided to start a chain to become a donor anyway.

“What a chain is, is when someone needs a transplant, they have a friend or family member who’s willing to donate to them but they’re not a good match. They say I’ll donate my kidney to someone else in order for my loved one to get a kidney,” Hughes explains.

Hughes’ chain of strangers resulted in seven transplants.

“It’s not something that’s changed my life but I know what I did changed other people’s lives. That’s pretty powerful,” Hughes says.

Hughes ended up being a match for a woman in Kentucky who she finally met last year.

“It was so great, she has so much energy, so much gratefulness,” she says on meeting the woman who received her donation.

linda hughes kidney donor2 South Jersey Woman Saves Seven Lives With Organ Donor Chain

Credit: CBS3

She wasn’t worried about risking her life, as healthy people can safely live with one kidney and her parents were supportive.

Hughes says the surgery discomfort was a small price to pay.

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“I feel like if I have this power, this ability to help someone, I would be upset with myself if I didn’t do it,” Hughes adds.

Thanks to her journey, her employer, Bayada, is one of the sponsors for the Philadelphia Kidney Walk which takes place Sunday at the Art Museum.

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