When Debby Neal-Strickland married her longtime boyfriend Jim Merthe on Nov. 22, she described it as being "the most amazing day of my life, until two days later. That was also the most amazing day of my life."
It wasn't because they arrived at a fabulous honeymoon destination or moved into a brand new home. On Nov. 24, Debby went to a Florida hospital and donated one of her kidneys to Mylaen Merthe — her new husband's ex-wife.
Mylaen had kidney disease, and by that time, her kidneys were functioning at just 8 percent. Before they began the donation process together, the women were friendly — Mylaen and Jim share two children and are on good terms — but were not that close. Debby told The Associated Press she wanted to make sure Mylaen was able to meet her first grandchild, and also remembered the pain she felt when her brother died of cystic fibrosis before he could receive a double lung transplant. Debby's kidney donation, Mylaen said, came straight "from her heart."
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Debby could instantly see a change in Mylaen after the surgery, telling AP she looked "so alive and revitalized." The women now call each other kidney sisters, and have matching tags — Debby's reads "Kidney Donor, I Shared My Spare," while Mylaen's says "Kidney Recipient, I Run on Spare Parts." They are looking forward to taking their blended family on a summer trip to Georgia, because "this is what the world is about," Mylaen told AP. "Family. We need to stick together. She saved my life."
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