Unbeknownst to Neil Sladick, when he found the love of his life he also found the woman who would save his stepmother's life.
Cheryl Sladick has spent nearly three years undergoing dialysis for twelve hours a week. She became sick about a year after the two began dating. A rare, autoimmune disease called Goodpasture Syndrome has basically wiped out her kidneys. Doctors told Sladick that she would need dialysis for the rest of her life, unless she received a kidney transplant.
"Right from the very start, Abbey said 'I'll be tested'," Cheryl Sladick recalled. "But I never thought she would match me. Never."
Abbey and Neil tied the knot in June, 2015. Six months later, Abbey began the process of getting tested to determine if she was, indeed a match.
She passed the first hurdle, when doctors told her she had the same blood type: A positive.
"And then there were more tests and more tests, and it turns out we're a five out of six antigen match, which is basically one of the best matches you can get," Abbey told FOX 17 News. "The doctors actually thought we were biological mother and daughter...All the pieces just kept falling into place, and so I knew it was just meant to be."
Abbey, who's blogging about the experience, explained the incredible odds by writing: "Except in cases of identical twins and some siblings, it is rare to get a six-antigen match between two people, especially if they are unrelated. The chance of a perfect or six-antigen match between two unrelated people is about one in 100,000."
Cheryl's daughter and grandchildren were also tested, but were not a match.
"I was so thrilled, and I started crying," Cheryl said. "It's just a wonderful thing. And really, until it's given to you, you have no idea, what a gift of life it is... Abbey's giving me my life back."
Abbey plans to "share her spare" and donate her kidney to Cheryl on July 18th, at Mercy Health Saint Mary's in Grand Rapids.
"It's just wonderful to know that Cheryl is going to be able to live a health life again," she said. "It's just surreal, I guess, to be able to give to someone. It just doesn't seem real. But she would do the same thing for me. There's no question that it's supposed to happen."
Both women are leaning on each other and their faith as they prepare for surgery. Cheryl is already looking forward to a new life, filled with more time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She's also excited about traveling down Route 66, something she wasn't able to do on dialysis.
"There's really no words that really say thank you enough," Cheryl explained. "...It's giving me my life back. How can you say thank you enough for giving you your life back? How can you do that?"
Abbey is humble about becoming a living organ donor, but said she hopes her story will inspire others to give.
"I really want people to see that organ donation is not a scary thing," she said. "It's really a great opportunity to help other people...For me to be able to help Cheryl in this way, is just a blessing to me."
Abbey said her husband has been by her side throughout the experience, and said he's "really excited" and "amazed" that they are such a great match.
"I have no doubt that God is going to take care of us," she said. "And, if He made it that we were a match, He's going to see it through and make it the rest of the way."