How They Met: A Perfect Match

Gravely ill with kidney disease, Aurelia Dawson had nearly given up hope. Then the man of her dreams gave her his heart -- and his kidney.
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Aurelia's Dangerous Kidney Condition

It was a few days before Valentine's Day 1998. As Aurelia Dawson, then 28, sat in the waiting room of a kidney dialysis center in New York City, far from the lush Caribbean landscape of her native Belize, the last thing on her mind was romance. Born with only one kidney, Aurelia had been diagnosed four years earlier with a potentially fatal kidney condition, end-stage renal failure. Doctors recommended a treatment called peritoneal dialysis. "They said I needed to be near a top-rated dialysis center," she says. Desperately ill and estranged from her husband, Aurelia obtained a visitor's visa and moved in 1995 to New York City, where her mother lived.

Aurelia brought her 1-year-old, Samantha, with her, but her two older children, Sheryl and Stephanie, then 7 and 3, had to stay behind with Aurelia's in-laws. (To accompany her would have been prohibitively complicated and expensive.) "I'll never forget Sheryl in the car on the way to the airport, saying, 'Mommy, Mommy, don't go without us!' It broke my heart," Aurelia says. She assured Sheryl she'd find a way to send for her and Stephanie.

Yet moving to New York did not solve Aurelia's health problems. For three years she supported herself with odd jobs while enduring up to 12 hours a day of being hooked up to a portable dialysis machine. But the treatments not only failed to help, they caused complications. Aurelia developed blood clots in her legs and a separate problem that necessitated the removal of her appendix. Doctors broached the possibility of a kidney transplant, but none of her relatives were young or healthy enough to be a donor.

"One night, after my leg blew up like a balloon because of a blood clot, I called my dad in Belize and told him I couldn't take it anymore," Aurelia says. "But even as the words came out of my mouth, I knew I couldn't give up."

Continued on page 2:  An Instant Connection


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