19-year-old student meets a liver donor, 22, who came in to save her from life-threatening lupus

This is the heartbreaking moment when a university student met the stranger who saved her life by donating part of his liver to her.

Madison Ricci, 19, from Hamden, Connecticut, was diagnosed with lupus when she was just 12 years old.

Although she was put on different drugs, her condition began to deteriorate so much that she was told she would die unless she had a liver transplant.

Her parents, Kristine and Todd, made a public call on Facebook and asked for help finding a living donor who would be willing to save their daughter.

Jaelin Highsmith, from the nearby town of Meriden, saw the post and – although he had never met Ricci – decided to be tested to see if he was a party.

After four months of testing, he turned out to be a match and the couple underwent a transplant surgery in December 2018.

Highsmith and Ricci communicated via SMS for months, but never met in person. Good Morning America organized a surprise meeting outside Ricci's house on Tuesday morning.

Madison Ricci, 19 (right), met Jaelin Highsmith, 22 (left), who saved her life by donating part of his liver to her, for the first time on Tuesday

Madison Ricci, 19 (right), met Jaelin Highsmith, 22 (left), who saved her life by donating part of his liver to her, for the first time on Tuesday

Ricci, from Hamden, Connecticut, was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 12

Ricci, from Hamden, Connecticut, was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 12

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to attack its own tissues and organs. Pictured: Highsmith after surgery

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to attack its own tissues and organs. Pictured: Highsmith after surgery

Ricci, from Hamden, Connecticut, was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 12. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to attack its own tissues and organs. Pictured: Ricci after transplant surgery, left and Highsmith after surgery, right?

When host TJ Holmes led Ricci outside and told her who was waiting for her, her mouth fell open and she started to cry.

The teenager ran into Highsmith's arm and said: & # 39; I am speechless. Thank you. & # 39;

Highsmith said he was happy to finally be able to meet Ricci after months of text messaging.

& # 39; Unreal. That's the best way to describe it, & he said. & # 39; It has been a long time in the making. & # 39;

Ricci was only 12 years old when she was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to attack your own tissues and organs.

The internal inflammation can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, blood cells, kidneys and lungs.

In the cases of Ricci, she also had an enlarged spleen, low platelet count and severe anemia, according to her mother's Facebook post.

Lupus is often difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms can mimic other conditions, including arthritis and fibromyalgia, a disease that causes pain and stiffness in the muscles and joint of which Lady Gaga is a well-known victim.

According to the National Resource Center on Lupus, an estimated 1.5 million Americans live with the disease.

Among those who suffer is singer Selena Gomez, who revealed her diagnosis in 2016.

However, the actual number may be higher because a large-scale study of the number of Americans with lupus has never been conducted.

Ricci was prescribed various medications, such as prednisone, an anti-inflammatory drug, in the hope that it would reduce inflammation and increase platelet count.

In January 2017, Ricci's liver began to scar and was immediately added to the liver transplant list. Pictured: Ricci

In January 2017, Ricci's liver began to scar and was immediately added to the liver transplant list. Pictured: Ricci

In March 2018, doctors told her parents that her condition was deteriorating and that her best chance of survival was finding a living donor. Pictured: Ricci

In March 2018, doctors told her parents that her condition was deteriorating and that her best chance of survival was finding a living donor. Pictured: Ricci

In January 2017, Ricci's liver began to scar and was immediately added to the liver transplant list. However, in March 2018, doctors told her parents that her condition was deteriorating and that her best chance of survival was finding a living donor. Pictured: left and right, Ricci

Highsmith saw a message from her parents on Facebook asking for help, and decided to get tested, and he turned out to be a party. Pictured: Ricci and Highsmith during their first meeting on Tuesday

Highsmith saw a message from her parents on Facebook asking for help, and decided to get tested, and he turned out to be a party. Pictured: Ricci and Highsmith during their first meeting on Tuesday

Highsmith saw a message from her parents on Facebook asking for help, and decided to get tested, and he turned out to be a party. Pictured: Ricci and Highsmith during their first meeting on Tuesday

But Ricci's health did not improve. As her spleen became larger, her other organs ran the risk of being damaged.

In January 2017, during her final year of high school, her doctor noted that her liver enzymes had risen to dangerous levels and sent her to a specialist, her mother wrote on Facebook.

After two liver biopsies and different tests, Ricci was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis with severe cirrhosis.

This meant that her liver now attacked itself, which was the cause loss of liver cells and permanent scarring of the organ.

Ricci was immediately added to the liver transplant list.

However, when she was on the spring break from the University of Tampa in March 2018, doctors told her parents that her condition was deteriorating and that her best chance of survival was finding a living donor.

That's when the Riccis became public, created a Facebook page with the name Miracle for Maddie, and asked for help finding a living donor.

Highsmith heard of the desperate search for a new liver for Ricci from Facebook and decided to be tested.

According to Ricci's family, Highsmith only had a 5 to 10 percent chance of being a match, but after four months of testing at Yale New Haven Children & # 39; s Hospital, it was confirmed that it was a match.

In December 2018, the two underwent a 22.5-hour operation at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital. Pictured: Ricci, left and her father after the operation

In December 2018, the two underwent a 22.5-hour operation at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital. Pictured: Ricci, left and her father after the operation

In December 2018, the two underwent a 22.5-hour operation at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital. Pictured: Ricci, left and her father after the operation

Ricci will be home for a few months and is unlikely to return to the University of Tampa until the fall semester. Pictured: Ricci, foreground and her father after she was fired

Ricci will be home for a few months and is unlikely to return to the University of Tampa until the fall semester. Pictured: Ricci, foreground and her father after she was fired

Ricci will be home for a few months and is unlikely to return to the University of Tampa until the fall semester. Pictured: Ricci, foreground and her father after she was fired

& # 39; The bottom line was the opportunity there and there is no way to leave it & # 39 ;, he told GMA. & # 39; I knew from day one if I could do this, I would do it. & # 39;

Because the best friend of Highsmith is a family friend of the Riccis, the two remained in contact via text message, both before and after the operation.

In December 2018, Ricci and Highsmith underwent a gigantic 22.5-hour procedure.

Usually 40 to 60 percent of the liver is removed from the donor and transplanted to the patient. Both sections will fully grow back within four months.

Highsmith worked at home for a few weeks while Ricci was not fired just before Christmas.

She will be home for a few months and is unlikely to return to the University of Tampa until the fall semester.

According to a message on social media, Highsmith informed Ricci by text message: & # 39; Every time I am in pain, I think about how YOU will definitely get through this and I cannot let you finish this trip alone. ;

A family friend from the Ricci & # 39; s started a fundraising campaign on Give Butter to cover the costs of the operation.

So far, more than $ 6,500 has been raised from a $ 20,000 goal.