By Macy Wilbanks
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla (mocsnews.com) After putting off their own wedding for ten years Debby Neal Strickland and Jim Merthe married at their local church in Florida on Nov.22. Two days after her wedding Debby was wheeled into the operating room to give Jim’s ex-wife, Mylaen one of her kidneys.
Debby lost her own brother to cystic fibrosis after he did not receive a transplant in time. Debby was not a match for her brother, but she was for Mylaen. This was Debby’s chance and Mylaen’s too.
“When somebody needs an organ, if they don’t get it, they’re probably not going to make it. I know it’s something that you do quickly,” she said.
Mylaen and Jim were married for more than 20 years and share two children together, their daughter about to have Mylaen’s first grandson.
When Debby thought about Mylaen’s daughter giving birth without her mom she said, “and her mom not being there. I just couldn’t not try to change that.”
“God told me, ‘You’re a match and you need to do this.”
Debby and Jim had been together for 10 years and were raising six children together in Ocala, some Debby’s grandchildren and some foster children. One of the foster children is a six-year-old girl with autism.
They have a heart for others, and kidneys too.
Though Debby and Mylaen are not best friends they cared for and respected one another. That was enough.
Mylaen had been struggling with kidney disease for many years. Her body was failing her. She was barely making it through her workdays and her skin reflected her failing organs.
When Mylaen arrived for surgery, her kidneys were functioning at 8%.
Both surgeries were successful, and when they came to, they had to see each other again.
“We had our masks on too, so we’re crying, and of course our stomachs were hurting because of the incisions,” Mylaen said. “We kinda laughed and cried.”
While Mylaen recovered from her surgery she witnessed her daughter become a new mom and her grandson, Jackson live life earthside.
“I was like, ‘I’m actually here to see this and I’m holding this little baby,” she said.
After their eventful November the ladies share organs, prayers, and even the planning of vacations. They call themselves “kidney sisters.”
“This is what the world is about. Family. We need to stick together,” Mylaen said. “She saved my life.”