How They Met: A Perfect Match

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Adrian's Sacrifice to Save Aurelia

After that the two of them were together constantly. Yet Aurelia's health hung like a shadow over their hopes for a shared future. One night in February 1999, as they were settling into their new apartment in Brooklyn, Adrian took a deep breath. "Rel," he said, using his pet name for her, "I want to see if I can give you one of my kidneys." Aurelia was momentarily speechless.

"No! " she finally sputtered. "You're young and healthy." Adrian, five years her junior, just smiled. His youth and good health were precisely the point. While major surgery always carries some peril, for a healthy person to give away a kidney is not in itself a health risk. The remaining kidney grows and takes over the functions of the missing one.

Still, Aurelia wavered for months, terrified that the surgery could harm Adrian. Eventually he won her over. In June both underwent testing to find out whether her body would accept his kidney. "I'll never forget sitting in that waiting room and hearing a loudspeaker announce a call for Adrian Alleyne," she says. A few tense moments later, he returned, reached for her hand and whispered, "Rel, we're a match."

The surgery took place in July 1999. The nurses came for Adrian first. "We couldn't let go of each other," Aurelia recalls. "We were both petrified that we'd never see each other again."

When Aurelia woke up in the recovery room, her first words were "tell Adrian I love him." But three days passed before the couple, recuperating on separate floors, could see each other. On the fourth day, Adrian was wheeled into Aurelia's room for lunch. Alone at last, they were flooded with relief that each had survived.

A Happy, Healthy Ending

In October 2002, with both of them fully recovered and Aurelia completely free of dialysis machines, the couple were married. By this time Aurelia's divorce had become final, and she and Adrian had saved enough money for Sheryl and Stephanie to immigrate to New York.

Since then life has been good for the family. Like all transplant recipients, Aurelia, 34, takes an array of immunosuppressant drugs, but there is no indication that her body will reject Adrian's kidney. Also, thanks to Catholic Charities and the generosity of an anonymous donor, the immigration fees for Aurelia's elder daughters have been paid. In fact the donor, who underwent a kidney transplant herself, was so moved by the couple's struggle that she also set up an education fund for Aurelia's kids. It has already come in handy: Sheryl, 17, began college this fall. The younger girls are doing well in school and all three fondly call Adrian "Daddy." Next up for the family: a visit to Belize, the tropical paradise that Samantha is too young to remember and that Adrian has never seen.

Remembering the day she met Adrian, Aurelia says, "I'd almost lost hope as I sat in that dialysis center bracing myself for the treatments." She pauses, then adds dreamily, "Then in he walked."

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, November 2005.

 

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