For many people, a trip to a coffee shop is nothing out of the ordinary. Even if you go somewhere a little of out your way, you pop in or chat with a friend, and that’s the end of it.
But for Catherine Pearlman, a California mom of two, the Starbucks she stopped at while doing a favor for a friend would change her life. It all started when a flyer caught her eye.
The flyer was posted by Monica Valdez, a stranger who was determined to save her husband Eli’s life. He’d been diagnosed with kidney disease at 40 and was heading toward kidney failure.
The situation was dire. Eli was put on UCLA’s deceased donor list, but because of his rare blood type, he was looking at waiting at least eight years for his turn. His loving wife knew he probably wouldn’t survive that long, and she couldn’t give him her kidney — she wasn’t a match. Neither was anyone in their family.
In the meantime, Eli had to endure a surgery and then the exhaustion of dialysis three days a week.
Monica couldn’t just wait and hope they got lucky. So she created a Facebook page and posted flyers all over town. “My honey of 27 years needs a living kidney donor as soon as possible,” they read. “You could be Eli’s kidney hero and save a wonderful life! He is blood type O positive.”
When Catherine entered Starbucks that day and saw those last words, she knew she had to help. She and Eli share the same blood type.
She talked the big idea over with her husband Jeff, who supported her decision to try. They spent the next few months waiting on test results, not really expecting Catherine to be a match. But she was, and she was determined to go through with the surgery!
So Catherine checked into Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on May 15, 2019 to give Eli a very personal gift. Their families waited nearby and surely breathed a sigh of relief when they heard the transplant was a success.
The next day, both couples gathered in Eli’s room to celebrate his new shot at life — and get to know each other.
Eli and Monica are still in awe of the sacrifice Catherine made for two strangers. “What words can you say?” Monica told TODAY. “Thank you is not enough. Thank you is never going to be enough.”
Catherine and Eli now share an unbreakable bond. Since that day in Starbucks, Catherine has spent time reflecting on everything that happened. She wrote that at first, she didn’t tell anyone about her plans to donate for fear of being judged. But her friends, family members, and, of course, the Valdez family couldn’t be more proud of her selfless decision.
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