Ten years after their first date, Debby Neal-Strickland put on a cream-colored lace gown and married her longtime sweetheart at their Florida church. Two days later, she put on a hospital gown and donated a kidney to Mylaen Merthe—her new husband’s ex-wife, per the AP. Mylaen, 59, had long struggled with kidney disease. By last year, she was ghostly pale with dark circles under her eyes, dragging herself through the workday with no energy. By the time she was admitted to the hospital in November, her kidneys were only functioning at 8%. Her brother offered to donate a kidney but wasn’t a match, so Debby volunteered. Jim Strickland and Mylaen have been divorced nearly two decades, but they got along well as they raised their two children, and as Jim fell in love with 56-year-old Debby. The women were friendly at family gatherings, though not especially close.
And Debby knew that Mylaen was about to become a grandmother for the first time—her daughter was pregnant. She imagined Mylaen’s daughter giving birth, "and her mom not being there. I just couldn’t not try to change that," she said. After months of testing and COVID delays, the transplant was set for two days after Jim and Debby’s wedding. Debby was tempted to postpone the wedding, but friends discouraged her. The couple had already waited 10 years, canceling twice in deference to their children who announced their own engagements. They married Nov. 22. "It was the most amazing day of my life," says Debby. "Until two days later. That was also the most amazing day of my life." The women, who now call themselves kidney sisters, are both doing well.
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