Living with kidney disease for eight years, Bates found a perfect kidney donor match in the man she is engaged to. Tye Johnson met Bates when he picked up his younger brother, whom she baby sat, at her house.It took almost three years for Johnson, 34, to gather the courage to ask her out."I'm shy, I'll admit it," he said. "I had to ask my little brother about her first."The couple, who were engaged over the summer and have been living together in St. Albans for more than a year, started dating about six years ago.Bates' need for a kidney became dire late last year, when she was rushed to North Shore University Hospital with kidney failure.Bates' sister and mother were tested to see if their kidneys would match. Only her sister was compatible, although not a perfect match.Johnson said it took some arm-twisting to cajole his 24-year-old fiancee into seeing if he matched."I had to convince her for at least a week for me to get tested," Johnson said.When the results came back, Johnson was found to be a perfect match, keeping Bates from the usual eight-year wait it takes to find a kidney donor."When I found out we were a match, I knew we were meant to be together," Johnson said.The successful operation at North Shore was performed Oct. 15. It was the first kidney transplant conducted in Nassau County.The couple served as keynote speakers last week for North Shore's flag-raising ceremony to honor and raise awareness of organ donors and recipients."Before I met Jarena, I wasn't too knowledgeable about organ donation," Johnson said, noting that he convinced two of his friends to become organ donors. "This has been a good experience for me."Dr. Ernesto Molmenti, the surgical director of North Shore's transplant program, said the hospital has performed several kidney transplants since Bates' operation."We feel highly privileged because our transplant team has provided a message of hope to those in need," Molmenti said. "We're able to provide a message of hope."Dennis Dowling, the executive director of North Shore, encouraged attendees of the ceremony to become organ donors."This is not that hard," Dowling said. "It's obviously vital and it's just (about) making it your personal responsibility."Bates said she has seen changes in herself since the operation."I feel more energetic," she said. "I'm smiling a lot more now. I'm thankful to Tye for stepping up and giving me something so special."The transplant was so important to Bates that the couple set their wedding date for Oct. 15, 2009 Ð exactly two years after the operation.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2008 Community News Group
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