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Dallas Man, Jonathan Woodlief, Learns That New Wife's Kidney Is Perfect Match For Life-Saving Transplant

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ABC News
ABC News

In an unlikely twist of fate, a newlywed man's life was saved when his wife turned out to be a perfect match for the kidney transplant he needed to survive, ABC News reports.

"I'm a lucky man," Jonathan Woodlief said. "I'm really grateful."

When Woodlief was 18, he underwent his first kidney transplant after his mother agreed to be his donor.

Woodlief, who has lupus, thought he was in the clear after that surgery, since it's rare for the disease to return in a donated kidney.

But last year, the Dallas, Tex., man learned that his kidney was failing yet again -- and the prognosis wasn't good.

According to WFAA-TV, doctors told Woodlief that because of antibodies from his mom's kidney, as well as the effects from past blood transfusions, it would be virtually impossible to find a suitable match this time around.

"My antibodies are about 99 percent, which means that I match about one percent of the population," Woodlief said. "That was definitely...just heartbreaking to hear."

Doctors told him he would probably spend the next 15 years or more on dialysis before a match became available. It seemed likely that he wouldn't survive the wait.

Despite the odds stacked against them, Woodlief and his fiancee, Caitlin, decided to continue with their plans to marry. They had met three years before at seminary school and despite Woodlief's deteriorating health, chose to keep their romance alive.

Caitlin admitted that the decision did not come easily.

"Dating was really difficult," Caitlin told ABC News. "You're trying to figure out how much to put your heart on the line, like any dating situation. But now I have to decide whether or not to go with him to chemo treatments. It's scary and intimidating dealing with a big disease."

But eventually, her love for her fiancé outweighed the doubt.

"Just honestly, in my heart, I knew he would've done the same for me," she told WFAA-TV. "And I was in love and I loved him. And that didn't change anything."

They married in October.

A month later, Woodlief went on the transplant list -- beginning the seemingly futile search for a donor.

Then in January, everything changed. Caitlin, it turned out, was a perfect match.

"It's like hitting the lottery," transplant surgeon Dr. David Cronin told ABC News. "Practically speaking," he said, "patients like Woodlief have 'almost no chance of finding a matching donor."

This week, the newlyweds went into surgery.

ABC News reports that the transplant was successful and the happy couple, who say they hope to one day start a family, are recovering well.

"The doctor called it a miracle," Woodlief said. "We believe it's a miracle and we're grateful for that."

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