Joe Leto, and Jackie and Jason Gaddy were the best of friends growing up. In fact, Joe dated Jackie. They eventually broke up, but their families remained close.
In 1999, Joe, a marine, died during training exercises at Camp Lejuene. Jackie later wed Jason. Joe’s family attended. The couple has remained close to Joe’s mom Mimi.
When Mimi posted on Facebook that she needed a kidney, Jackie told her husband. Jason got tested.
“I told people it felt like I was trying to get into college, because I didn’t want to be rejected at that point,” said Gaddy.
He kept the test a secret. Then, the two families met over dinner where Gaddy shared that he was a match.
“My world changed when he said, 'Would you like to take a trip to New Haven? I’ll give you a kidney,'” recalled Leto. “He just said it so, as if it was a walk in the park instead of this miracle that he gave me.”
On May 10th, Mimi became the 1,000 recipient of a living kidney at Yale-New Haven hospital.
“It was not a hard decision to make and you see the results on the other end it was just all worth it,” said Gaddy.
Hospital officials say the traditional organ donation list hasn’t changed in the last decade. That’s why doctors at Yale-New Haven hospital are emphasizing the need for living donors instead.
“Living donation is actually the best quality organ that a patient needing an organ transplant could ever have,” said Dr. David Mulligan the Chief of Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Transplantation Center.
With a 98 percent success rate, Mulligan said live kidney transplants have a better outcome than transplants where the donor is deceased.
“They last longer, they work immediately, and they have the best possible outcome,” he explained.
Both have bounced back quickly since the surgery. Gaddy is set to go back to work next week.
“It’s not something to be scared of. It’s very easy, relatively easy recovery,” he said.
Leto hopes her story inspires others to think about donation.
“Just do it. It’s a miracle that you cannot put words into, really,” she added.
It’s a decision that’s forever bonded the Leto and Gaddy families, a bond they’re happy to share.
“They’re not getting rid of me now. I think they’re at least going to invite me over to dinner now.”