Larry Swilling and wife Jimmie Sue were looking forward to growing old together. After 57 years of marriage and three children, they were enjoying the simple life.
Then tragedy struck.
Jimmie Sue, 76, began suffering health problems and was ultimately diagnosed with kidney disease. Doctors told the South Carolina couple Jimmie Sue had only months to live unless she received an urgent kidney transplant.
Larry, 79, was tested immediately but wasn’t a match. Neither were any of their children. She was placed on the waiting list along with 96,000 others.
The devoted husband made the decision to find his wife a kidney.
Last September he painted a sign on a sandwich board that said, ‘Need Kidney 4 Wife’ along with his phone number and spent each day for almost the next year wandering the streets of their home town. He knew it was a long shot but couldn’t just sit idly by while his wife died.
“I had to do something,” Larry told CBS News. “She looks after me, I look after her.”
“I love her more now than I believe when I married her because we’re not two, we’re one. We need each other.”
He had to take a break from his long walks for knee surgery but once recovered, began pounding the pavement again.
Since he began his appeal the couple has received almost 2,000 offers from as far as Germany, Switzerland and Jamaica. Nobody was a match.
Then he was contacted by retired Navy lieutenant commander Kelly Weaverling who read about the couple online. She was a match.
This week one of Kelly’s kidneys was transplanted into Jimmie Sue, saving her life.
“Have you ever just had a feeling that was just a strong gut feeling that you just went with your instinct, because you just knew it was right?” Kelly told CBS News. “That’s exactly what happened. I could do something to give this family hope.”
“There’s not enough words,” Larry Swilling said.
In Australia there is an average of 1800 patients awaiting an organ donation at any one time.
Would you donate your kidney to a stranger?