A pair of best friends who have helped each other through thick and thin are now even more bonded for life after one donated a kidney to the other.
Carol Patrylo had an "instant connection" with longtime pal Cindy Mueller after they first met while working together at the Lindbergh School District in St. Louis, Patrylo told NBC affiliate KSDK.
"I thought she was sweet and just loving and she thought I was nuts, and that made her laugh," she joked.
It would seem opposites attract, though, and the two forged a friendship that was made even stronger after Patrylo lost her 19-year-old son Todd to a drunk driver in 2000.
"I watched this woman lose her will to live," Mueller told KSDK. "There were times that I would go to her house and get her dressed and drive her to work, just so I knew she wouldn't lay in her bed all day."
Patrylo said Mueller's support helped her get through the difficult time — and now, more than 20 years later, she learned to lean on her friend once again after going into stage 5 kidney failure and being put on dialysis, according to KSDK.
Mueller knew right away that, just as Todd had donated his organs following his death, she wanted to donate her kidney.
"I didn't have to think about it," she said. "It was an instant thing. My best friend needs a kidney."
In a lucky break, Mueller was a perfect match for Patrylo — but as she was overweight and pre-diabetic, she had to take it upon herself to get in shape in order to save her friend.
"I said, 'Well, I'm on a journey and I'm losing weight, so we're going to make this happen,'" she told KSDK. "In giving her the gift of life, I was also able to get myself the gift of a healthy lifestyle."
With diet and exercise, Mueller lost 54 pounds, and Patrylo finally received her kidney in a transplant surgery last month at Saint Louis University Hospital.
"I've got a lot to live for," Patrylo said. "And I'm so blessed to have a friend like Cindy."
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