Jarena Bates was diagnosed with kidney disease eight years ago. Since then, she has grown into a beautiful and vibrant 23-year-old woman, who was planning a wedding to the man of her dreams.
But, everything changed in May of this year when Bates was rushed to the hospital. Soon after, doctors broke the devastating news that she was going into kidney failure and needed a transplant.
Immediately a search began to find a matching donor. Not an easy task, considering more than 5,000 people living in the New York metro-area are waiting for kidneys and the average wait time is 7 to 9 years. The bottom line, Bates needed a miracle.
With the help of her fiancée Tye Johnson, she found that miracle. The 31-year-old asked to be tested to see if he was a match for Bates, and as fate would have it, he was.
"Actually, I decided to do it on my own. She didn't want me to get tested — she didn't want to put me through the pain and suffering," he said. "But, I insisted." It's a decision, Johnson said, he never thought twice about. "When I first found out that we were a match, I knew we were meant to be together."
• Click here to see images from the day of the surgery.
Bates felt the same exact way. "God sent him into my life for a reason... he brought him there to save me and protect me, and I thank him and I love him for being my guardian angel," she said.
Five months later, the day came for the transplant operation at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island. The operation was performed this past Monday — a first of its kind for the facility. The staff caught up with Johnson and Bates just before they were wheeled into the operating room. Johnson was all smiles as he described his unconditional love for Bates.
"I just want her to know that I love her dearly," Johnson said. "She's apart of me, and I'm going to be a apart of her, I just want her to know that she is a very special person and she deserves this, because she's very sweet and would do the same for me."
Four days after the life-changing surgery, the young couple walked arm and arm into a packed auditorium at the hospital with one of their many physicians, Dr. Ernesto Molmenti, director of Transplantation. The hospital staff, as well as family and friends, were on their feet clapping and cheering.
"I call them the Romeo and Juliet of the 21st century," Molmenti said. "Tye is a hero. It's like going into battle, there's a risk of death, risk to himself, but he did it for love."
And what a love affair it has been. Johnson and Bates met four years ago in their neighborhood in St. Albans, Queens when he rang her doorbell.
"When I first saw her, it was love at first site," he said. After that, Johnson found every reason possible to keep stopping by, until he got up the nerve to ask her out. "I think there was an angel up there, and they sent him to me, " Bates said.
Amid the flashbulbs and T.V. cameras, nothing could stop this young couple from showing off their love. Johnson dipped his fiancee, and gave her a big kiss, as the the auditorium echoed with cheers and laughter.
"It really is amazing." Dr. Louis Kavoussi, chairman or Urology at North Shore University Hospital said. "In a world where we get ahead making another buck, and there's war, this is the very best of what human kind is."
Kavoussi was the doctor who removed Johnson's kidney. He pioneered laparoscopic nephrectomy for kidney cancer and live donor kidney transplantation, a technique that eliminates the large incision for kidney removal.
For the next few weeks, Johnson and bates will be seeing the team of transplant doctors twice a week for check-up's, and the treatment doesn't stop there. As one doctor put it, organ transplantation is a lifelong commitment. The same kind of commitment Johnson and Bates have already made to each other.
With the operation behind them, the couple is now setting their sights on their future, especially their wedding coming up next year. They had originally set a July date, but Johnson and Bates now plan to exchange their vows next year on October 15 — the one year anniversary of their life-changing surgery.
"It is an incredible story," Molmenti said. "It was a match sent from heaven."