Patients in Cleveland Clinic’s first 3-way kidney swap meet face to face

CLEVELAND - Two couples are sharing one incredible story of paying a life-saving gift forward.

Friday, patients of the first three-way kidney swap performed at the Cleveland Clinic met for the first time, exchanging hugs, flowers, tears and laughter.

"I can't even put it into words how grateful I am and how much it's transformed my life," said Nancy Botbyl.

Nancy and Gregg Botyl were married just days before a life-altering surgery.

"Twenty six years is when they diagnosed me with it and my health just steadily declined," said Botyl.

Botyl was diagnosed with a genetic disease that continued to wreak havoc on her kidneys and nearly changed the course of her life.

"The wait time for the cadaver kidney is 4-10 years," said Botbyl. "So that was pretty daunting and trying to decide if I wanted to go on dialysis or let nature take its course."

Botbyl's husband, Gregg, wanted desperately to be a perfect match but when doctors informed him he could not donate to his wife, he decided to donate to a patient on the National Kidney Registry. He says his kidney eventually went to a patient on the west coast.

His act of kindness was later repaid, when Botbyl received a kidney from a living donor also in northwest Ohio. Danae Labocki, married to her husband David of 16 years, was also tested, and hoped to become a donor but learned she was not a match.

courtesy: Cleveland Clinic

"It's scary," said Labocki, trying not to cry. "You just feel like, is he going to get another kidney?"

David Labocki, 44, a father of three and ill since 18 years old, says he was becoming more sick with each passing day. Nevertheless, he says his belief in a higher power carried him through difficult times.

"Keep the faith and understand that you just never know what can come out of a situation," said Labocki. "I had a four percent chance of getting a kidney and it worked out for me."

Labocki received the life-changing donation thanks in part to his wife's donation to Botbyl. The doctor behind the clinic's first three-way kidney swap, Dr. Alvin Wee, wants patients to know a key fact about organ donation.

"Just because you are not compatible with someone does not mean you cannot be a living donor," said Dr. Wee. "You hear a lot of bad news but with transplants you see tragedy but out of tragedy people try to make good things out of it."

It's the gift of a second chance and for both couples who married in sickness an opportunity to enjoy the rest of their lives together in health.

Read more on the National Kidney Registry.