Marta Chiqito of the Bronx needed a kidney transplant. So did Tamira Ferrer of Clayton, NJ. The two women were counting on their husbands, Moises and Carlos respectively, to donate to them -- but that was not to be. Neither man was a compatible donor for their spouse.
Both Marta and Tamira thought they would have to go back onto the National Donor Registry and wait as long as five or seven years for a kidney from a deceased donor to become available.
"That made me sad because I wasn't getting better, I was getting worse," said Ferrer.
Then, the women's doctors suggested they put their names on a list for an organ swap program to find willing donors in similar situations. But neither couple expected things to move so fast.
The couples' blood types were quickly matched, Moises Chiqito to Tamira Ferrer and Carlos Ferrer to Marta Chiqito, and this past September the surgeries were simultaneously performed on Marta at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Tamira at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, New Jersey.
"There was an opportunity... and we just took it, everything worked out surprisingly," said Carlos Ferrer.
"I was happy because two lives were going to be changed miraculously," said Marta Chiqito.
Dr. Amy Lu, transplant specialist at Montefiore, was the physician who removed Moises' kidney for Tamira.
"A live donor is so much better because it lasts longer and increases the chance of a successful recovery," she said.
The two couples saw each other face-to-face for the first time Tuesday. They hugged and shared a pre-Thanksgiving meal at Montefiore with their families and the doctors and nurses who saw them through the transplants.
"It all worked out, I can't believe we're here like this," remarked Carlos Ferrer.
The couples say their swapped kidneys have become the foundation for a new friendship.
"It was meant to be," said Marta.