Florida woman donates a kidney to her husband’s ex-wife

A Florida woman donated her kidney to her husband’s ex-wife just days after her wedding, and now they call each other ‘kidney sisters.’

Debby Neal-Strickland and Jim Merthe said ‘I do’ on November 22, 2020, exactly 10 years after their first date. Two days after the ceremony, the newlywed donated her kidney to Jim’s ex-wife Mylaen Merthe, who was battling kidney disease. 

‘She’s a person and she needed a kidney and I had one. I was healthy enough to give it to her,’ Debby, 56, told Good Morning America. ‘She’s also the mother of my guy’s kids and they were having their first two grandchildren.’  

Incredible story: Debby Neal-Strickland (left) donated her kidney to her husband Jim Merthe's ex-wife Maylaen Merthe (center)

Incredible story: Debby Neal-Strickland (left) donated her kidney to her husband Jim Merthe’s ex-wife Maylaen Merthe (center) 

'Kidney sisters': Debby, 56, donated her kidney to Mylaen, 59, just two days after she and Jim, 56, got married on November 22,  2020

‘Kidney sisters’: Debby, 56, donated her kidney to Mylaen, 59, just two days after she and Jim, 56, got married on November 22,  2020 

Jim, 56, and Mylaen, 59, divorced over a decade ago, and they have remained on good terms while co-parenting their two children.  

Mylaen has battled kidney disease for more than 30 years and was on the verge of dialysis last year when her kidneys were only functioning at 8 percent. 

Debby, who has always been friendly with Jim’s ex, offered Mylaen her kidney after learning her brother wasn’t a donation match. 

Mylaen told Good Morning America that she didn’t get her hopes up because of what happened with her brother, but all the tests came back positive.   

‘The doctors couldn’t even believe what a close match we were,’ Debby added. ‘They thought we were such a close match that it was unbelievable. So I just feel like that was God’s intention — that it was my destiny.’

Fate: Debby said she had always planned on donating an organ to someone in need, and she wanted Jim and Mylaen to be able to experience becoming grandparents together

Fate: Debby said she had always planned on donating an organ to someone in need, and she wanted Jim and Mylaen to be able to experience becoming grandparents together

Close as can be: Mylaen said she feels like 'a totally new human being' six months post-transplant, and she credits Debby with saving her life

Close as can be: Mylaen said she feels like ‘a totally new human being’ six months post-transplant, and she credits Debby with saving her life

Organ donation has always been important to Debby, who lost her brother to cystic fibrosis 26 years ago. He was waiting for a double lung transplant at the time, and while she wanted to donate one of her lungs, they weren’t a match.  

Together, Debby and Jim are raising six children — two biological grandchildren and four grandchildren by association. Five of the kids are teenagers, while the sixth is a six-year-old with autism.

She explained that she loves being a grandmother, and she wanted Jim and Mylaen to be able to experience that joy together. The donation also made Debby and Mylaen even closer. 

‘[We] usually text every single day,’ Debby said. ‘We talk quite a bit. We call ourselves kidney sisters.’   

Mylaen said she feels like ‘a totally new human being’ six months post-transplant, and she credits Debby with saving her life. 

‘All I ever wanted was to be a grandma and to have grandchildren and to be there for them,’ she said. ‘Now I’ve got two and it’s because of her.’

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