IT'S NOT UNCOMMON FOR SOMEONE TO go to her high school reunion and lose her heart. Susan Benner's case was more unusual: Thanks to her 33rd reunion, she lost a kidney. And gained a friend.

While helping to organize a get-together for Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High School's class of '62 last August, Benner, 51, who lives in Annapolis, Md., and is a training specialist at the Pharmacia & Upjohn Co., phoned former classmate Bennett Scott, 51, and learned from his wife that Scott was desperately ill with kidney disease. A diabetic and one of 40,000 Americans awaiting organ transplants, he had been on dialysis since 1992. "I went from bad to worse and from worse to hell," says Scott, who teaches English at the County College of Morris in Randolph, N.J. "I was dying." Neither of his two grown children nor his wife, Sarah, could provide a tissue match, and hope was rapidly disappearing.

Deeply moved, Benner, who had lost a man she loved to kidney disease in 1990, offered her help. "I thought, 'If I can do anything to help another woman not lose the love of her life, I'm going to do it,' " she says. "So I wrote Scott a letter saying, 'I have two kidneys and you don't have any. I want to give you one.' "

Incredulous, but desperate, Scott accepted. After tests confirmed their tissue compatibility, the pair underwent a four-hour dual operation on Dec. 1 in New York City. Both are recovering nicely, and Scott's prognosis is excellent.

Though they were only acquaintances in high school, Benner and Scott now talk every week by phone. And they both laugh about his initial reaction to her offer. 'I told Susan, 'I don't want to take advantage of anybody,' " he recalls. "And she said, 'Bennett, it's been so long since any man has taken advantage of me. Go ahead.' "