San Diego

Surprise Reunion: Retired SDPD Det. Meets Life-Saving Kidney Donor

A retired San Diego police officer who received a life-saving donor kidney met his anonymous donor during an emotional surprise meeting this week.

Art Calvert, 55, underwent transplant surgery on July 12, 2018. It was his third donor kidney, the previous two coming from his mother and sister.

The emotional meeting happened after Calvert’s sister arranged to fly Katie Elsbernd, 35, to San Diego from Des Moines, Iowa.

The Calverts had gathered with a large group of family and friends to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday. Unbeknownst to Calvert, Elsbernd was hiding in an adjacent room.

As the family formed a large prayer circle, Elsbernd walked in to surprise Calvert. The retired officer burst into tears.

“I cant thank you enough, you saved my life,” said Calvert.

Elsbernd was part of the national shared donor program. She donated a kidney in order to move her sister up on the donor list.

Detective Art Calvert is in great health after a kidney transplant in mid-July, his old supervisor put him in line for the procedure.

It’s exactly how Calvert was able to move the top of the donor list. A former police colleague, Patrick Vinson, donated his kidney on behalf of Calvert.

The transplant happened after years of heartache and failing health for Calvert. In early 2018, SDPD dispatcher Deborah Ballard offered to donate her kidney to Calvert, but the transplant was called off at the last minute when doctors decided the pair were no longer compatible. Prior to that, Calvert had to endure 11-hours of daily dialysis for several years.

“It’s overwhelming and fantastic and amazing,” said Elsbernd.

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