The first Facebook message Nicole Langley sent Jayme Jahns was about blood.
“Hey, I think I’m the same blood type as you,” wrote Langley on February 8, 2018.
Jahns replied, and just days later Langley was at University of Washington Medical Center getting tested to be a living kidney donor for Jahns.
Blood, it turns out, was crucial to their relationship.
A match made on Facebook
“In January, I found out I had end-stage kidney failure. I was terrified. When my nephrologist told me that, I was crying in his office. I thought I was going to die. I have a 2-year-old and want to be here for her,” Jahns says.
Jahns has IgA nephropathy, a type of kidney disease with no clear cause. If she couldn’t find a kidney donor, she would have to begin dialysis for the first time as a 32-year-old mother.
Even with blood relatives, the chance of being a perfect match is slim; for example, many siblings only have a 25 percent chance. And after having so many people tested without success, Jahns was running out of time. Her kidney disease was so severe that she wheezed when she walked.
When Jahns learned none of her family members would be able to help her, she took to the internet, desperate to find someone, anyone, who might be willing to make such a big sacrifice for a stranger.
Though a person can get along fine with a single kidney, the donation process carries risks simply because it involves surgery. Research has shown, though, that organs from living donors last longer for transplant recipients than organs from people who have recently died.
After Jahns posted about her situation to a moms group on Facebook, three women offered to get tested to see if they were a match. Langley was one of them.
Before a living kidney donation can take place, testing is done to see if the recipient’s immune cells treat the donor’s as intruders and attack. If that happens, the donation can’t go through because the organ will quickly be rejected by the recipient’s body.
Jahns was hopeful that Langley would be a match—but was prepared in case not.
But it turned out that Langley—a complete stranger, someone Jahns had never spoken to before that February 8 Facebook message—was a perfect match.
On July 18, Jahns went into surgery to receive the kidney that would save her life.
An uncanny connection
“I’m going to cry talking about it,” Langley says and, indeed, tears up. She is sitting across the table from Jahns, in the cafeteria at University of Washington Medical Center. It’s been a week and a day since surgery.
Though the two women have known each other only since February, they share the ease of two people who have been close friends for years—even occasionally finishing each other’s sentences. Eerily, they both grew up and still live in Graham, Washington, never knowing the other existed until now. Their families, too, have gotten to know each other, and both of their mothers met recently.
“My mom said it’s like each of them gained an extra daughter,” Langley says.
Langley, like Jahns, is also a mom herself, to three girls. Her understanding of the need to be there for your children is what compelled her to see if she was a good donor candidate.