RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - William “Woody” Johnson and Joanna Wylie have more than just blood and tissue in common.
The two hugged each other for the first time Wednesday since a kidney transplant at VCU Hume-Lee Transplant Center three weeks and three days ago.
Johnson expressed his gratitude to the extraordinary wife and mother of three who gave her kidney to save his life. The 46-year-old stay at home mom and 22-year-old Clover Hill High school graduate see life through similar lenses.
At the Historic Mankin Mansion, which Johnson says is his favorite place to work, the caterer and mechanic shared a piece of himself with the stranger who had done the same for him, in the form of a miraculous life-saving gift.
“Now we’re a part of each other for the rest of our lives,” Johnson said. "She gave me that second chance. She didn’t have to and I really appreciate it. I feel like I owe her the world, but there’s really nothing you can give to somebody that gives you that second chance.”
Wylie showed Johnson pictures of her family hiking in Seattle, whale watching and her daughter’s graduation from Tucker High School.
Johnson and his mother believe it was destiny for Wylie to be his donor, perhaps with a higher power guiding their steps.
“She’s walking with my son everyday for the rest of his life every day,” Carol Pride said. "You know she’s like his guardian angel to me. She saved my son’s life. My son can live for many years now. We were battling with the machine and the life expectancy was 5 to 10 years. Now he’s going to live a good life.”
Wylie said she watched the report on Johnson’s plea for help and immediately signed up with VCU Medical Center to donate her kidney.
“It was a really cool experience to kind of watch William’s story from afar and be cheering for you," Wylie said. “My 18-year-old is like I want to do it now and I’m like you have to wait until you’re 46. That’s the new family rule.”
Wylie said she wants people to under the experience is not scary, and in the end it is rewarding to know you changed someone’s life for the better.
“My goal is to have people realize that it is not scary to do.” Wylie said. "A couple of weeks of being in a little bit of discomfort is no big deal seeing how much it has changed someone like William to be able to be young and have fun.”
Johnson’s kidneys shut down at when he was 20 years old. His high blood pressure had gone untreated by doctors who did not think it was a problem because of his young age.
Since the transplant, Johnson has returned the dialysis equipment that once kept him alive. He’s grateful to Wylie for being a donor, to his friends for their support and to the surgeon who helped restore his health.
Pride said the transplant process went quickly following the initial report aired on NBC12.
“The next day, we had 40 calls and within two months he’s been transplanted and is on his way,” Pride said.
Johnson is looking forward to getting back to work, fishing and cherishing the gift of life.
“Incisions healed up well. I can’t thank him enough," Johnson said of the surgeon. "Can’t thank the donor enough. I’m just stoked to be able to have this second chance.”
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