Wife is rare match for kidney transplant to hubby

December 24, 2009 3:23:19 PM PST
Many husbands and wives are buying gifts for each other during this holiday season. A sweater maybe, slippers or a watch, perhaps. But one Florida couple had a very special early Christmas exchange. We've heard stories of kidney donations before, and this is one of a wife's special gift to her dying husband.

These transplants normally don't take place because husbands and wives have no blood relation, so they're usually not a match. But it's Christmas. And for many, it's a time of miracles.

Cheryl Rico, of Coral Springs, Florida, says she's proof miracles can happen. The 44-year-old mother of four just gave her husband of 24 years a very special Christmas gift - her kidney.

"She said worse, just like a C-section, really," husband Michael Rico said with a laugh.

Despite not being blood relatives, Cheryl and Michael were a biological match.

So what are the odds of that?

"It's very rare," transplant surgeon Dr. Gaetano Ciancio said. "One in about 30,000."

For 30 years, Michael had battled kidney disease. This summer, the prognosis became even more grim when dialysis became unavoidable and a transplant the only hope of survival.

"He was getting ready to be put on dialysis," Cheryl said. "And he's been pretty weak and sick."

That's when Cheryl heard an unbelievable story about a husband and wife match.

"I said to him, it's probably really a long shot, but let me go get tested," she said.

Weeks of testing ended three weeks ago, when word came.

"They told me we were a match and I was amazed," she said.

The Ricos underwent surgery in side-by-side operating rooms last week. Within minutes, Cheryl's kidney was working in Michael.

"Most spouses would do it," Cheryl said. "I think we're incredibly lucky and blessed that we're a match, that we could do it."

Michael called his wife his Christmas angel.

The couple is spending Christmas at home, but already planning a big New Year's bash with family and friends.

"I feel good, better than before," Michael said.

He is a fortunate man. There are now about 88,000 people waiting for transplants, and the average wait for a kidney is about five years.