CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - After spending a few minutes with Ryan Fackey, it's easy to see why this 21-year-old donated his kidney. "I just wanted to make a difference. I always wanted to make a difference, going to Iraq. Then coming back and finding ways to help out here more," he said.
The Marine, who is stationed in Beaufort did more than just help out. He saved the life of 15-year-old Columbia native Dani Jones.
Jones has endured a lot leading up to her transplant surgery, from constant medical check-ups, finding a suitable donor, and even a series of surgeries. "It's been tough because of all the surgeries I have had to go through," she said.
At just three years old, Jones had a life-saving bone marrow transplant. In April, doctors diagnosed her with kidney failure.
The uphill battles with Jones' health have been trying, but she maintains her upbeat attitude.
Jones' mother, Paula, feels blessed by Ryan's gesture. "Oh my god, I can't believe being 21 and make that decision like that. That's just amazing," she said.
For Fackey, the decision to donate wasn't made overnight. His mother Brenda says she was unsure about everything at first, but was overcome by her son's determination to give.
"You can change your mind at the last minute. He said, 'no it's what I want to do. Someone needs my kidney, I have two healthy ones and I want to give one to someone.'"
Fackey said when he and Jones first met, it was awkward, but they went to dinner and it didn't take long for them to bond. "To know her story now. She fought for her life when she was three. That made me want to give her the kidney even more when I met her."
Fackey and Jones, and their families, were brought together by the gift of life and now they share more than just an organ.
At MUSC, there is a tradition that states donor and recipient ring a bell when a successful transplant is performed. On Veterans Day, Jones and Fackey rang the bell.
On Saturday, the Angel Flight program will fly Fackey to his hometown in Ohio for free. After a 40 day discharge, he will return to Beaufort.
He plans to spend the holidays in Columbia with the Jones.