Far from the white beaches and turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf, a mother stands in a sea of people, arms wrapped around her sons, as a wave of passengers click the handles of their carry-ons, wheeling them toward their destinations.
Saleema Al Shukri has just arrived at Logan Airport from Abu Dhabi.
It has been six long months since she has seen her sons Saeed, 16, and Ahmed, 23, and her husband Fadel, all of whom temporarily relocated to Boston to begin a journey of hope and healing, while Saleema remained at home to care for the rest of the family.
Two years earlier, at the age of 14, Saeed was diagnosed with kidney dysplasia, a condition that results from the malformation of the kidney during fetal development. While Saeed had remained relatively well his entire life, his doctors in Abu Dhabi noticed that his blood levels started to become abnormal, showing his kidneys were beginning to fail.
Saeed needed a kidney transplant.
When Dillon McCarty was 13, he received a very special gift from his stepfather Nicholas Gula—a new kidney.
But Gula, 34, didn’t donate his kidney to Dillon. Instead, he gave it to a stranger, a 29-year-old man also in need of a kidney transplant in Atlanta. And in return, the man’s wife gave her kidney to Dillon.
The carefully choreographed “operation” involved two selfless donors, two flights, two states, three hospitals and four surgeries—more than one thousand miles apart—inexplicably tying two families.
“It was a dream,” says Gula. “I was saving two lives. Words can’t even express how I felt.”
The reason for the kidney swap was simple. To be a match, a donor’s blood type and antibody testing must be compatible with the recipient. Dillon had relatives—including his stepfather—who were willing to donate, but those donors were incompatible. Only his mother Samantha McCarty was a match, but not one that would work for Dillon. …
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