Jonathan Woodlief needed a kidney. Finding a match was proving to be quite dismal, until he met his wife, Caitlyn at seminary school in Dallas.
He was suffering from lupus and received his first kidney transplant from his mother at the age of 18. In a rare occurrence, the disease returned in the donated kidney and his health took a turn for the worse soon after he started dating Caitlyn.
"Dating was really difficult," Caitlin said. "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."
Medical experts say it’s difficult to find a match for someone who has already had a transplant because the body has built up new antibodies.
Doctors told Jonathan that he would spend the next 15 years on dialysis until they were able to find such a unique and rare match.
Jonathan was even in the hospital when he met Caitlyn’s parents for the first time.
"That was humbling," he said, "me wanting to be a man who could provide and love her, and being insecure about my health."
Caitlyn recalls watching Jonathan’s health deteriorate.
"There were days that really take your breath away," Caitlin said, "when you think about the weight of the situation … just how sick he was."
During the tough times, she stayed strong by remembering that he would do the same for her.
One month after the Woodlief’s October wedding, Jonathan went on the transplant list. Caitlyn and some of the couple’s friends tested to see if they could be a match for Jonathan’s new kidney.
Unfortunately, each friend learned that they were not a match.
As the chances appeared even slimmer, the couple received the unexpected news that Caitlyn was indeed a match.
"It's like hitting the lottery," said transplant surgeon Dr. David Cronin. "Practically speaking," he said, patients like Jonathan have almost no chance of finding a matching donor.
After undergoing more tests, the couple went into surgery last Tuesday at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.
The couple are both at home recuperating and planning exciting activities for their new future together.
"Swimming and jumping and running and playing basketball," is first on the list, Caitlin said.
Jonathan and Caitlyn are looking forward to starting a family together, something they thought they would never have the opportunity to experience.
"That was on the back burner until all this came together," the couple said.
The newlyweds finished seminary school. Jonathan would like to pursue ministry overseas while Caitlyn studied musical therapy and would like to incorporate it into her ministry.
"A lot of our story has been shaped by suffering," Jonathan said, "So we want to work with other people who are suffering."