A three-month-long emotional reunion took place live on “Good Morning America,” when a 19-year-old girl met the total stranger who donated his organ to her. In December, Madison Ricci, 19, and Jaelin Highsmith, 22, had a liver transplant operation that lasted over 20 hours. Ricci’s post-sur-gery medical issues postponed their reunion until Tuesday when she felt well enough to see Highsmith in person.
Highsmith surprised her at her family’s house in Hamden, Connecticut, living on “GMA.”
Ricci, who had just two words for Highsmith, said, “I’m speechless, I’ve nothing to say apart from whole-hearted Thank You.” “I appreciate it.” “Unreal. That’s the most accurate way of putting it “When they first met, Highsmith stated. “It’s taken a very long time to get here.” At the age of 12, Ricci was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease. This led to Ricci and Highsmith’s first experience.
Ricci’s condition worsened while on summer vacation at the University of Tampa last year. Doctors advised Ricci’s family that the greatest chance for her life was to locate a living donor who would give her a piece of their liver. Ricci was already on the liver transplant waiting list. Ricci found she had a match after months of waiting – and several setbacks along the way, like as a possible donor who fell through.
After one of his closest buddies – a longtime friend of Ricci’s – sent out a message asking for assistance in getting her a donor, Highsmith offered to be her donor. According to Ricci’s family, he only had a five to ten percent chance of being a perfect fit for her.
Despite this, experts at Yale-New Haven Hospital found that Highsmith was a match after more than four months of testing. “The bottom line was that the opportunity was there, and I couldn’t pass it up,” he added. “I knew from the beginning that if I could do it, I would do it.” After the operation, Highsmith and Ricci began communicating by text message, and they continued in touch via texts and social media until they were able to meet in person.
“Maddie and Jae have so many resemblances, it’s astounding to us,” Kristine Ricci, Maddie’s mother, said. “We will be eternally thankful to Jaelin and his entire extended family for becoming a part of our family.” Highsmith has also supported Ricci’s family in their efforts to help her recover, particularly assisting them in raising funds for her continued medical care. “The bond and affection that we have amongst ourselves is just incredible,” Kristine Ricci remarked.