You would not want to blame Daru Smith and Sarah McPharlin for not getting away from each other while they were at the University of Chicago Medical Center. They were both on the same waiting list for a rare transplant of three organs.
Daru, a truck driver from south Chicago, was a short walk from McPharlin, a Michigan occupational therapist. They had different antecedents but shared the same probabilities. Both needed a procedure so rare that it had been practiced only 15 times in the history of the United States.
"I was like, I do not want to feel that it's a competitive affair, like who will live and who will die," Daru said.
Daru has an inflammatory disease that has caused organ failure. When Sarah was a child, a virus attacked her heart and she was transplanted at age 12, but her health has recently deteriorated. Both needed heart-liver-kidney transplants, but no hospital had two in a single year.
Doctors do not present patients on the same waiting list even though they have different blood groups, like Sarah and Daru, but they met at physical therapy and a friendship started, both inspiring people to work their exercises.
Then, a few days before Christmas, Daru had a donor – a new chance to live and a chance to see her 3-year-old grow up.
"To be honest, I felt a little bad at first … she had also suffered a lot, you know, like, why did not she go first?" Said Daru.
Then, during Daru's surgery, the transplant team learned that she could only describe a Christmas miracle: Sarah was also having a match. This was the first time that a hospital performed two of these surgeries the same year, let alone the same day.
The person who announced the donor to him was Dr. Bryan Smith, the fiancé of CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz. Smith asked Sarah if she had heard the good news and she thought that he was referring to Daru's operation.
"We kept talking for about a minute and realized that she did not know anything about it," Smith said. "I stopped her and said," In fact, the donor is for you "and she and her mother were speechless."
Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam is the couple's cardiac surgeon. All in all, Daru's operation took 17 hours and Sarah's, almost 20 hours.
"It's one of the aspects of the transplant, which is actually spiritual … you control things, but when donors get vaccinated, you have no control over that … and maybe there's karma in the fact that they are rewarded for their good deeds, "Jeevanandam told me.
Good deeds, such as openness to friendship where others would not want it and move it forward.
"Usually, I do not do the kind of" new year, new me, "but I can honestly say this year, new year, new me," said Daru.
Daru wants to become a motivational speaker and looks forward to raising his son. As for Sarah, she wants to live life to honor her donor. Daru is still in rehab at the hospital and Sarah was discharged on Monday so she will live this new life.
Their friendship has brought their families together and they all plan to organize a family dinner together as soon as possible.
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