The first time he saved her life, he had no idea who she was. Three years later, he’s saving her life again.
Jeramy Davies hosted a bone marrow drive while in college at Texas Tech in 2010. He registered with Be The Match at that drive. About 1 in every 430 U.S. Be The Match Registry members actually go on to donate to a patient. Davies didn’t expect a call.
Five years passed.
“I was busy living my life, building a house and making all the plans that you normally make,” recalls Davies. “I never thought about it honestly that much. I knew that I was on the registry and if I ever did get a call, I’d of course say yes.”
In May of 2015, he got the call. He was a potential match for a 27-year-old woman with lymphoma. Due to privacy rules, donor and recipient cannot have direct communication or share contact information until a year after the transplant. Davies was asked if he was still open to donating; he immediately said yes.
Knowing only her age, illness and gender, Davies went through with the donation a month later. At the time, his wife Laura was in remission. Laura had been diagnosed with a grade 2/3 astrocytoma on September 11th, 2014. She had brain surgery to remove it, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
I was given a 50 percent chance
Kelly Ribeiro was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2013 at 25 years old. After going through treatment, lymph nodes started growing again. Ribeiro needed a stem cell transplant.
“I was given a 50 percent chance. Without it, I had no shot,” says Ribeiro.
She matched with Davies, saving her life. A year after the transplant, he reached out to her.
“You feel like you know this person, but technically you’re strangers, but it doesn’t feel like that at all, so you just want to start rolling into a natural conversation, and it just feels like you know them already,” says Ribeiro.
Ribeiro and Davies exchanged texts and emails regularly, until communication slowed down in October of 2016.
At that time, Laura’s brain tumor came back as a glioblastoma. She had surgery to remove it in March 2017, but in late May doctors found a gliamatosis cerebri, a rare brain tumor diagnosed in only about 100 people a year.
“We knew the signs when she started having seizures. They gave us six months to a year, and it was two months, and she was gone,” Davies said while wiping a tear from his eye. “The first six months after she passed, I was mourning, and I wasn’t coping with grief very well. I talked to Kelly a lot about that.”
Davies and Ribeiro grew closer, becoming like brother and sister. They began speaking on the phone and FaceTiming regularly. Then in January 2018, Davies quit his job and went on a road trip, ending in Union City, New Jersey, Ribeiro’s hometown. The two finally met in person.
“It feels like we almost grew up together,” says Davies.
Shortly before his trip, Davies spoke with Ribeiro’s mother. He learned that Ribeiro had gone into kidney failure as a result of chemotherapy. She had been on dialysis three times a week.
“She’s always been one that doesn’t want to take from other people,” Davies explains of Ribeiro keeping that information from him.
Now that Ribeiro had his stem cells, Davies was a 100% match, which is essentially the same as having an identical twin. He was the best option for a kidney transplant.
“This man offered that kidney immediately. Immediately,” emphasizes Ribeiro.
After months of convincing, Davies finally got Ribeiro to rematch with him at Mount Sinai.
“I’m here twice because of this man.”
On December 18th, Davies and Ribeiro checked arrived at Mount Sinai for the kidney transplant. Prior to the surgery, the two were inseparable.
Once transplanted into Ribeiro, Davies’ kidney took immediately. Upon waking, Ribeiro recalls immediately feeling better.
“You don’t understand what it feels like to feel yourself at the brink, like you know you’re going, and you just feel rejuvenated. It’s amazing. I don’t know how to say thank you enough,” says Ribeiro.
For Ribeiro, it isn’t just getting off dialysis. Because she is a genetic match with Davies, she may not need to take anti-rejection medication for the kidney, according to her doctors. As a result, this could be a permanent solution for Ribeiro, and her doctors were monitor her progress, but she may be able to keep that kidney for life.
“He’s giving me a shot at normalcy again, at a life of not being a patient anymore after seven years of this, so I don’t think he’ll ever get what he did, what that means,” says Ribeiro.
Click here to learn more about joining the Be The Match registry.