Ten years after her first date with Jim Merthe, Debby Neal-Strickland, 56, and her beau were married at a Florida church. Two days later, she was on the operating table donating a kidney to his ex-wife, Mylaen Merthe, 59.
"She's a person and she needed a kidney and I had one. I was healthy enough to give it to her," Debby told "Good Morning America." "She's also the mother of my guy's kids and they were having their first two grandchildren."
Debby's act was a beautiful example of giving. However, in a world where relationships between people who've shared the same spouse are usually a bit tense, Debby is a saint.
Jim and Mylaen have been divorced for over two decades but got along well as they raised their two children. So when Mylaen entered the picture, the two women were friendly with one another but never too close.
However, their relationship has become a lot closer now that they share more than just family. The women now refer to each other as "kidney sisters." "[We] usually text every single day," Debby said. "We talk quite a bit."
Man's New Bride Donates Her Kidney to His Ex-Wifewww.youtube.com
Before the transplant, Mylaen had long suffered from kidney disease. Her kidneys were functioning at just 8% and she appeared pale with dark circles under her eyes. She was due to become a grandmother and Debby couldn't stand the idea of her not being there for her daughter and the new arrival.
I just couldn't not try to change that," she said according to Fox News. "God told me, 'You're a match and you need to do this.'"
Debby was also compelled to help all she could because she spent years waiting for her brother with cystic fibrosis to get a lung transplant. "When somebody needs an organ, if they don't get it, they're probably not going to make it. I know it's something that you do quickly," she said.
After months of testing and delays caused by the covid-19 pandemic, the transplant was successful. Once Debby regained consciousness after the surgery, all she could think about was Mylaen. "`I need to see her.' That was the first thing out of my mouth."
Debby could see the difference in Mylaen's appearance almost immediately. "She looked so alive and revitalized," she said.
Even though the three of them were wearing masks there was no mistaking the incredible emotion they all felt after the surgery. "We had our masks on too, so we're crying, and of course our stomachs were hurting because of the incisions," Mylaen said. "We kinda laughed and cried."
After the surgery, Mylaen moved in with her daughter to recuperate. The kidney sisters can't wait to see each other at a big family reunion in Georgia this summer.
"This is what the world is about. Family. We need to stick together," Mylaen said. "She saved my life."
"I have a lot of love for her," Mylaen added. "She's a family member."
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