Over the summer, a man and a woman each swiped right on the popular dating site Tinder, an innocuous flip of the thumb millions of singles do every day.
It turned out to be a perfect match.
The two daters did not fall in love. They didn’t even go on a second date. But the connection they made that night was life-altering.
This week, Jennifer Thomas, a 35-year-old single mom, gave one of her kidneys to a stranger – the wife of a friend of her one-time Tinder date.
On that date, during the first meeting exchange of biographies, Rich O’Dea told Thomas that he was a marathon runner. He starting doing them with a friend, who was raising money to find a cure for a genetic kidney disease called polycystic kidney disease, or PKD. The friend, Scott Bragan, 47, created a team for his wife, Erika, 44, who was diagnosed with PKD 14 years ago and, her kidneys failing, desperately needed a transplant.
Thomas told her first date she wanted to get tested to see if she was a match. O’Dea wasn’t sure if she was serious, but he passed on her phone number to Bragan.
The next day, Bragan called her.
“Why would a perfect stranger who met my good buddy on a blind date, why would she even want to help?” Bragan said he had wondered. “She was so authentic, she goes, ‘I know that everyone is given two kidneys and I know I only need one to have a perfect quality of life.’ She was so selfless in her response. Who is this person? She’s an angel on the other line.”
He tried to remain calm on the phone, desperate not to scare her off, he said in an interview Friday.
His wife, and the mother of their two adolescent children, had been on a transplant wait list for two years. Her kidney function was diminishing, and she’d soon need dialysis to keep her alive while she waited for a match. It could have been years.
Now, only several months later, and after a series of intensive medical tests, Thomas and Erika Bragan are both recuperating in the hospital, the surgeries a success.
Thomas had every reason to back out. Not only is she a single mom, but the dental benefits office where she works wasn’t supportive of her taking the time off, Bragan said. She had to take unpaid leave and isn’t sure there will be a job waiting for her when she’s recovered. (Her employer did not return a call for comment.)
But, according to Bragan, Thomas told him, “If I lose my job, then I’ll get another job. We’ll be fine. Just so your wife doesn’t suffer one more day, it’s all worth it.”
He’s set up a GoFundMe page to help with both his wife’s and Thomas’ expenses.
Bragan is still in disbelief that Thomas is real. Even now, his wife recovering with her new, healthy kidney, he wonders if he’ll wake up from a dream. He knows Thomas will be in their lives forever. Their children have become fast friends. They’re family now, he said.
“We are overwhelmed with her selflessness,” he said. “She has reaffirmed the belief that there are good people in the world. With all the bad things happening, this is such an example of the human spirit.”
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