What are the odds that your best friend from childhood would read about your need for a kidney on Facebook, take a screening test, and match?
The odds were really good for Krystal Watson of Clute, Texas.
Krystal, 44, was born with genetic defects that affected her heart, lungs, and kidneys. In 2021, her kidneys started failing and because of her health, she was not a candidate for a transplant.
"I thought I would be on dialysis for the rest of my life," she recalled. But after successful heart valve replacement surgery, her health improved and she became eligible for a kidney transplant.
The search for a compatible donor began, with little success. Family and friends underwent screening tests but none matched. One year into her search, Krystal posted her need on social media, which caught the sympathetic eye of Jennifer Tindell.
Jennifer and Krystal were not only Facebook friends, but they were also best friends in second and third grade. Krystal moved away and the two lost touch in 1991.
Thirty-one years later, Jennifer read the post and never gave it a second thought. “I've never had a moment's hesitation. I always felt like it was a calling,” Jennifer explained. She took a test and matched. She excitedly phoned Krystal to share the life-sustaining news.
"I was just in awe. I couldn't believe it. I was so happy, I just cried,” Krystal remembers after hearing the news.
It took about a year’s worth of diagnostic tests to confirm that Jennifer was healthy enough to donate and that Krystal could accept her kidney.
"Becoming an organ donor requires you to be healthy and be willing to undergo many tests, but being related to the potential recipient is not a requirement,” said Dr. Wesley Mayer, Jennifer’s urologist. “Jennifer matching to Krystal is a great example to help dispel the misconception that a person must be related to another to be a donor. Anyone could potentially be someone else’s hero, blood relation or not.”
On Nov. 28, 2022, Dr. Mayer removed Jennifer’s kidney at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. It was transported to an operating room down the hall where it was transplanted into Krystal by the transplant surgeon, Dr. Thao Galván, providing Krystal with a new lease on life.
“When we transplant a kidney, we see drastic improvements in the recipient’s health, and that’s exactly what occurred with Krystal in the operating room,” said Dr. Galván. “Prior to the transplant, Krystal needed dialysis multiple times a week in order to survive. Now, her new kidney will likely allow her to live much longer, and free from dialysis. A longer, better life."
“I feel great,” Krystal said a week after the transplant operation. “Dr. Galván said Jennifer’s kidney was one of the most beautiful she had ever seen,” Krystal joked. “And I can’t say enough about the transplant team. I had a wonderful team of doctors and nurses. They were overwhelmingly supportive and kind. I couldn’t be more pleased.”
According to the National Kidney Foundation, over 100,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant with an average wait time of over 3-5 years.
Jennifer hopes her experience will encourage more people to donate a kidney to impact someone’s life in a positive way. “It’s not a hard process. In fact, they make sure your health and everything else is right so you can safely donate,” she recalled. “Don't hold back. If you have the opportunity, you should consider donating,” Jennifer said.
Krystal and Jennifer’s life-sustaining reunion caught the eye of producers at Inside Edition. You can watch the segment here. If you are interested in donating a kidney or other organ, please register with Donate Life Texas.