With over 100,000 people on the waitlist to receive a new kidney, it’s no wonder finding a matching donor can feel like a literal miracle.
That’s why Joey Acuña, a physical therapy technician, tried to avoid this last-case scenario for so long. But once his at-home dialysis treatments, which sometimes lasted up to 10 hours, were no longer enough, he began running out of viable options.
Joey kept his health issues relatively private. He rarely shared photos giving insight into his struggles on social media, but when it came time to look for a donor, he made sure to spread the word as much as he could. After all, he wasn’t just fighting for his own life — he was fighting for his wife and children, too.
The dad was hopeful as he waited to hear back from family and friends, but one by one, he discovered that they were unable to donate for various reasons. Finally, he received a simple yet life-changing comment on an Instagram post he shared: “How can I help?”
The question came from Julia Mockeridge, a physical therapist and one of Joey’s coworkers at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center. You might assume that these two were already work besties considering the implications of her comment, but that’s part of what makes her offer so incredible.
Sure, Joey and Julia were friendly when they interacted on the job, but they were far from close. In fact, Julia didn’t even know about the struggles Joey was enduring.
Despite the casualness of their friendship, Julia chose to register as a prospective organ donor. For months, she went through several medical tests to make sure she qualified, but Joey couldn’t celebrate just yet.
Finding a willing donor is only part of the battle as it’s extremely difficult to find a perfect match. But just as Julia offering to be his donor was a miracle, so too were her results.
In March 2021, she found out that she was a match! One month later, during National Donate Life month, the two underwent a successful transplant surgery, giving Joey his life back.
It may be hard to understand why Julia chose to be so brave and selfless, but her reason was quite simple: She’s seen the way these surgeries have the power to change lives.
Twenty years ago, her aunt donated her kidney to another one of Julia’s aunts, both of whom went on to live happy, full lives. Julia knew there were health risks involved, but that didn’t deter her. All she cared about was Joey and keeping his wife and children from losing him.
Since the surgery, both of their families have met via Zoom, where they’ve expressed their gratitude and amazement over the way everything perfectly aligned.
Understandably, Joey said he can’t thank Julia enough for what she’s done for him and his loved ones, calling her an “angel.”
We couldn’t agree more! Choosing to donate a kidney is no small act, even for a relative. It just goes to show there are some unbelievably kind people in the world.
Watch the emotional moment when Julia revealed she was Joey’s match in the video below, and don’t forget to share this story.
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