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Documentary film captures story of local organ donor recipient

Alana Duran found much more than a date when she and her now-girlfriend Lori Interlicchio matched on Tinder.

Ms. Duran, 27, who grew up in Southold, was diagnosed with lupus at age 12. The disease made her feel sore and affected her kidney function, and subsequently her heart function, causing her to have to endure hours of dialysis treatment.

For almost five years, she waited on a transplant list for a new kidney. It required ample patience, faith in modern medicine to keep her going and just doing what she needed to do to be ready if she ever got the call there was a match.

“At first, you’re really hopeful because you’re not jaded enough to realize it’s gonna be a while before you get an organ,” she said. “Some people are really lucky — they get on and they get off real fast.”

But the long wait was over when Ms. Interlicchio, 24, who grew up in West Islip, surprised her, revealing that she’d been tested and could be a donor for Ms. Duran.

In late 2015, Ms. Interlicchio surprised Ms. Duran with a box of gifts and began filming as she pulled out each item. When Ms. Duran reached the last few items, it became clear this was more than just a thoughtful collection of goodies and her favorite things. She picked up a print-out of what looked liked the message Tinder users see when they match with someone.

“It’s a match!” it read, showing the couple’s photos. Instead of the typical Tinder options asking the user if they want to send a message or keep swiping, it read “Accept Kidney” or “Stay on Waiting List.”

“It was kind of crazy, surreal,” Ms. Duran said. “I was very, very surprised.”

She said it was something Ms. Interlicchio would have done whether they were a couple or not. It didn’t have to be out of love, she said, it was “doing something nice for someone.”

“Really, even if we hadn’t worked out she still would have given me a kidney because she had another kidney and she didn’t need this one and I needed a kidney,” Ms. Duran said.

The video went up on YouTube, which Ms. Duran said was initially a way to share the moment with loved ones. But it didn’t take long for the video to go viral, catching the attention of documentary filmmaker Emilie Bunnell, who asked the couple if she could capture their experience.

The two agreed and their experience is now documented in the film “Bean,” which debuted on Fuse earlier this month. Ms. Bunnell will be featured in a Q&A session after a 10 a.m. showing Saturday, Dec. 2 during the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.

“Alana’s reaction was so genuine and touched that I just really want to get to know more and talk to them,” Ms. Bunnell said. She learned how complex Ms. Duran’s medical history was and how difficult finding a match for her was.

The film follows the pair throughout the organ donation process: taking medication, meeting with doctors and their strong support systems waiting anxiously at the hospital on the day in February 2016 when the women underwent their surgeries at Stony Brook University Hospital.

On screen, Ms. Interlicchio explains that she decided to be tested after their third or fourth date, after she learned that Ms. Duran had previously found a donor, but could not accept the kidney because she had a fever and was sick at the time.

For Ms. Bunnell, creating the film meant sharing their experience and a story that shows love and support.

“I didn’t go in necessarily to make the kind of film that would get people to be organ donors, highlighting lupus,” she said. “I was, during the process, striving to tell their story in a really authentic manner and to really make sure that when we go with them to the doctors, we’re hearing what they have to say and really keeping it as accurate to the process they went through as possible.”

Doing so resulted in a film that can inspire and educate people on the organ donation process, she said.

The women currently live together with their new puppy in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Ms. Interlicchio is in law school and Ms. Duran is doing research.

With her new kidney, Ms. Duran said, she no longer has to go through dialysis and her heart function has improved.

She said she hopes the film dispels myths about organ donation and helps people understand that lupus is a serious disease, even if it doesn’t seem so on the outside.

“There’s a lot of good people out there and a lot of great stories, so I hope in a way this reminds people that love exists and amazing people exist,” Ms. Bunnell said.

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Courtesy photo: Alana Duran (left) and Lori Interlicchio in recovery at Stony Brook University Hospital.