Lyle and Kelly McDaniel, like all couples, should have four kidneys and not two.
But what they lack in those organs, they make up with huge hearts.
The Monroe residents have been told they may be the only married couple to be living organ donors, and since this is National Donate Life Month, there’s no better time to celebrate their selfless acts that have extended and improved the quality of lives of the two recipients.
“We share a special bond,” Kelly McDaniel said.
While the bond is special, the circumstances behind their donations are incredible.
Eight years ago, Lyle, 58, plant manager at Air Products in Middletown, donated a kidney to his mother-in-law.
“You should see the looks I get when I tell people I gave a kidney to my mother-in-law,” he said with a laugh. “My sanity has been questioned.”
At least he knew his recipient. Kelly, 49, a registered nurse at Atrium Medical Center, donated a kidney to a stranger, a 40-year-old orthodontist whose pelvic cancer deteriorated his kidney.
In 2011, Kelly’s mother, Carolyn O’Neal, of Ashland, Ky., was diagnosed with kidney failure, and she told her family and friends she’d be dead by Christmas of that year. She received her kidney on Aug. 4, 2011 at University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Since then, O’Neal, 71, has crossed off two bucket list items: Watched a granddaughter get married in 2014 and became a great-grandmother 16 months ago.
When O’Neal needed a kidney, her husband, two children and sister were tested as possible matches. Lyle McDaniel decided to be tested, too. It’s a good thing. He came back “a perfect match,” he said.
Lyle joined the Navy when he was 18 and planned to make the military a career. But after 11 years and four knee surgeries, he was discharged. He then was hired at Air Products in California and transferred to Cleveland, then to Ashland, Ky.
The same Ashland, Ky., where his future wife is from. That’s where they met. And if they had never met, Carolyn O’Neal probably wouldn’t be alive today, her daughter said.
“I just believe God planned all of that out,” she said of the circumstances.
After seeing the joy the kidney transplant gave her mother, Kelly said she “wanted to pay it forward.” So she talked to the transplant coordinator at UC Medical Center about being worked up as a possible kidney donor.
“Very inspired by him,” she said of her husband. “I felt so blessed to have somebody help my mom.”
Then one night, while having dinner with friends, someone mentioned a man who needed a kidney. For two months, she said, “God kept laying this man on my heart.”
She called her friend and inquired about the man and his need for a kidney. At the end of the conversation, Kelly said, “I’ll give him a kidney.”
This without meeting the man.
They talked. Dr. Jay Parekh, who lived in Mason, said about 50 people at Ohio State Medical Center and UC had been tested, and because of his rare antibody, no one was a match. Then Kelly was tested.
“Perfect,” she said of the results.
Parekh received his kidney on Dec. 16, 2016 at UC Medical Center. He and O’Neal both received kidney transplants before their first dialysis treatments.
Kelly said being an organ donor was “God’s will for my life. I wanted to give somebody else the blessings that I have had. Because you don’t just touch that person, you touch their entire family. You give their family more time with them, more memories with them.”
During one of their many conversations, Parekh asked about the family and their background. They learned he and Lyle were both from southern Texas and Kelly and her family are from Ashland, Ky.
After he recovered from the transplant, he bought an orthodontist practice.
In Ashland, Ky.