RAHWAY, N.J. – An ailing woman who has sheltered dozens of foster children over the years received an early Christmas gift from one of them: a donated kidney.
"I'm forever indebted to this young man for this gift," said Phyllis Klingebiel, 68, of the foster son who lived with her and her husband for 11 years. "He's a walking angel on this Earth."
Navy petty officer 2nd class Mark Greshan, 23, said the donation was a natural choice for a woman who cared for him from the time he showed up at the house as a 7-year-old.
"After six months, I knew this was my home," he told The Star-Ledger of Newark in an interview before the operation. "It wasn't 'foster child,' it was 'son."'
Klingebiel needed a transplant after a genetic kidney condition worsened in the last year. Matches from biological family members were not available.
"He called me up and said, 'I have a Christmas gift for you,"' Phyllis Klingebiel said. "'The bad news is that it's going to be early. The good news is that you're going to get my kidney."'
Herbert Klingebiel thinks of Greshan's donation as a reward for his wife's work with children. Over the past 30 years, the Klingebiels have tended to 67 foster children.
"God gives everybody a gift, and I guess her gift is helping children," he said. "I guess this just came around and God gave it back hundredfold, back to my wife."
Their operations were Tuesday, and Greshan, who received some time off from the Navy, is recuperating at home.
He said Saturday he was sore from the operation but was OK. He was waiting to hear whether his foster mother would be able to leave the hospital and join him at their home.
"Everybody's doing fine," he told The Associated Press.