BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Last year, Buffalo Bills fan Georgina Provenzano got news she never expected. The normally-healthy 40-year-old hadn't been feeling well, so she went to her doctor.
"I was diagnosed with Stage 5 Kidney Disease - and was told I was going to need a kidney transplant," she said.
Georgina had lived with diabetes since she was a child, but says she never had any significant issues, so the news hit her hard.
"It took some time to absorb what was really happening," she explained.
Many people wait years for a transplant, so Georgina decided to take action any way she could.
"I saw people would post ads, bumper stickers. Anything to find if there were people willing to be organ donors," she said.
She decided to try her luck on social media - posting her story in a "Kidney Donor Wanted" Facebook page that connects people all across the country. She says she was shocked when within a day she got a message from a complete stranger.
"I reached out to her and I said - I want to help you. The rest is history," said Lynn Cavey.
Lynn and her family live in De Pere, and are huge Green Bay Packers fans. She says she's been a blood donor for years, and has always thought about donating a kidney.
"I always thought - that's something I can do," she explained. "If I'm healthy and I'm fortunate enough to be healthy - why not share your spare?"
Lynn says one thing was important to her - she wanted to know the person she donated to, and to be able to connect with them. She says something about Georgina's story drew her in, so she reached out. The two underwent months of testing. Eventually they got the news Georgina had been waiting for.
"I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it. Just a complete stranger. And they said she's a match, we're gonna move forward," she said.
As all of the testing was happening, the two still lived states away. Finally, in May, they met in-person at the Buffalo Airport.
Once Lynn was in Buffalo, the women went through more testing at Erie County Medical Center where their transplant was done in July. The head of the transplant program there says the hospital is working to expand its living donor program because getting a kidney from a living donor is considered the "gold standard."
"You don't have to wait on the waiting list sometimes many years to get a kidney," explained Dr. Liise Kayler. She says because of that, recipients are often healthier when they get their kidney, and feel better quickly. But finding a living donor can be difficult, so she suggests patients reach out to other people any way they can.
"We tell recipients - get the word out," she explained. She went on to say, "I'm actually impressed with the Buffalo community. Because there have been a lot of altruistic donors who have come forward without even knowing the recipient in order to help them."
Dr. Kayler did Lynn's surgery when the transplant took place in July. 7 News Anchor Katie Morse spoke with the women before the transplant, and caught up with them a couple months later to see how they were feeling.
"I feel great," said Georgina. "My recovery - I was only in the hospital about three days. I noticed a difference as soon as I woke up in the ICU. Just the energy in your body feels different that I can honestly say I haven't felt this way in 3-5 years.
I was sleeping probably 18-22 hours a day, now I'm not even taking a nap. I just have a ton of energy."
"I feel great," echoed Lynn. "It was about 5 weeks of soreness and by the sixth week it was like I was right back to normal."
The two women area in their respective home cities now, but have plans to get together again soon - even with the football rivalry season starting.
"Lynn made this," said Georgina, holding up a Packers shirt that says 'Not my fault - my donor is a cheesehead'. "I'm a cheese fan."
"A small part of you is!" joked Lynn.
You can learn more about Georgina's story and help her pay medical bills associated with it by checking out her Go Fund Me page.
"It's the most rewarding experience I've ever had," said Lynn. "To this day I get emotional about it when I hear how well she's doing and her mom tells me how well she's doing - I tear up. It's so rewarding to know I could do that for her."
"It's just a gift you can't explain," said Georgina. "There are so many healthy people out there are there are so many sick people - I don't think the healthy people realize what they can do for someone who is really sick. And it's a blessing."