For a while, Joan and Ani kept Joan's offer a secret at work. When it finally leaked out, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, although some of Joan's friends had reservations.
The three of us were on a stroll in Central Park one day when Ani asked Joan if anyone had told her she was crazy.
"Only a few people," Joan said. She said they had asked, "Have you really thought about it? Are you sure? Maybe you might think about reconsidering."
Those of us who were waiting with Ani and Joan for the day of the transplant had heard what the doctors had said -- that something could still go wrong -- but it didn't really register. Not until it happened on the day of their last tests before the transplant that had been scheduled early in June 2008.
Dr. Benvenisty revealed that Ani had developed new antibodies against Joan's kidney.
"Remember, Ani had a pregnancy," he said. "And pregnancy sometimes causes a spike in antibodies. It's terrible, but our first responsibility is to the welfare of the donor, and we keep that paramount in our mind at all times."
He called off the scheduled surgery until other options could be explored.
Joan compared the feeling to what it must be like to train all year for a marathon, then have it called off. She also had to deal with sudden expressions of sympathy from people who didn't know how else to react.
"It was weird," Joan said. "People were coming to me and apologizing when they heard that [the surgery] was postponed and I might not be the donor. And quite honestly, I didn't really know what to do with that."
At that point, there was another unpredictable shift in the circumstances surrounding the story. A second potential donor entered the picture. Lorraine DeBlanche is a member of the faculty of nuclear medicine in the department of radiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. Her husband was Jonathan Drummond-Webb, a transplant surgeon at the Arkansas Children's Hospital, where the couple first met Ani.
Lorraine remembered that she and Jonathan connected with Ani "on multiple levels. Because Ani had been a kidney recipient in the past, a fondness developed that, looking back now, was destined to be."
When the two became friends, Ani was on an extended assignment for an ABC News show about the children's hospital. Jonathan worked night and day as the chief surgeon at the pediatric heart unit.
The show was a success. No one could anticipate the tragedy that was coming. For reasons no one fully understands, Jonathan committed suicide during the Christmas holidays in 2004.
"I want to say that something happened at some point that night that, just in his exhaustion, he probably just felt that he could not carry on," Lorraine said. "I'm just really sorry that I did not get the time to say goodbye."
After her husband died, Lorraine returned to her native country, South Africa, with her parents.
"I needed to regroup," she said, "because my life was pretty much part of his life, and that's how it was planned. I had no Plan B."
Finally, Lorraine returned to Little Rock, to the house that she and Jonathan had shared.
"Some people would think [it] strange to go back to a place where such an event occurred," she said. "But to me it was going back to a place where we shared a space. ... And I have not regretted that decision at all."