“We call ourselves kidney sisters!” Selfless Florida woman, 56, donates an organ to her new husband’s ex-wife just days after her wedding
- Debby Neal-Strickland and Jim Merthe said ‘I do’ on November 22, 2020
- Two days after the ceremony, the newlywed donated her kidney to Jim’s ex-wife Mylaen Merthe, who has battled kidney disease for more than 30 years.
- Debby had always planned to donate an organ, and she wanted Jim and Mylaen to experience becoming grandparents together.
- Mylaen, 59, feels like ‘a totally new person’ six months after the transplant, and credits Debby for saving her life
- The two women are closer than ever and now call each other ‘kidney sisters’
A Florida woman donated her kidney to her husband’s ex-wife just days after her wedding, and now they call each other “kidney sisters.”
Debby Neal-Strickland and Jim Merthe said ‘I do’ on November 22, 2020, exactly 10 years after their first date. Two days after the ceremony, the newlywed donated her kidney to Jim’s ex-wife Mylaen Merthe, who was battling kidney disease.
“She’s human and she needed a kidney and I had one. I was healthy enough to give it to her,” Debby, 56, told Good morning America. “She is also the mother of my husband’s children and they had their first two grandchildren.”
Incredible story: Debby Neal-Strickland (left) donated her kidney to Maylaen Merthe, ex-wife of her husband Jim Merthe (center)
‘Kidney sisters’: Debby, 56, donated her kidney to Mylaen, 59, just two days after she and Jim, 56, got married on November 22, 2020
Jim, 56, and Mylaen, 59, divorced more than a decade ago, and they have remained on good terms while co-parenting their two children.
Mylaen has battled kidney disease for more than 30 years and was on dialysis last year when her kidneys were only functioning at 8 percent.
Debby, who has always been friends with Jim’s ex, offered Mylaen her kidney after learning that her brother was not a donation match.
Mylaen told Good Morning America that she had not been given any hope because of what had happened to her brother, but all the tests were positive.
“The doctors couldn’t even believe what a close match we were,” Debby added. “They thought we were such a close match it was unbelievable. So I just feel like that was God’s intention—that it was my destiny.”
Lot: Debby said she had always intended to donate an organ to someone in need, and she wanted Jim and Mylaen to experience becoming grandparents together
As close as you can get: Mylaen said she feels like ‘a totally new person’ six months after the transplant, and credits Debby for saving her life
Organ donation has always been important to Debby, who lost her brother to cystic fibrosis 26 years ago. He was waiting for a double lung transplant at the time, and although she wanted to donate one of her lungs, they were not a match.
Together, Debby and Jim raise six children – two biological grandchildren and four grandchildren by association. Five of the children are teenagers, while the sixth is a six-year-old with autism.
She explained that she loves being a grandmother, and she wanted Jim and Mylaen to experience that joy together. The donation also brought Debby and Mylaen closer together.
‘[We] usually text every day,” Debby said. ‘We talk quite a bit. We call ourselves kidney sisters.’
Mylaen said she feels like “a totally new person” six months after the transplant, and credits Debby for saving her life.
“All I ever wanted was to be a grandmother and have grandchildren and be there for them,” she said. “Now I have two and it’s because of her.”