Dan Coyne of Evanston, Ill., takes customer loyalty to a new level. A customer at the same grocery store for 18 years, Coyne donated his kidney to a cashier he barely knew.
"You always think about giving back to the community in some way or another. This was my way," Coyne said. "There is something about giving like that, that is a reward. It's a good feeling. Granted this kidney thing is a little over the top."
Coyne, 52, a Chicago Public Schools social worker, preferred Myra De La Vega's checkout line at the Jewel Osco Supermarket in Evanston, Ill., because of her cheerful demeanor. But one day three years ago, he noticed she wasn't smiling as usual, so he asked if she was OK.
De La Vega, 49, broke down in tears and told Coyne that she was sick and her kidneys were failing. Coyne offered to donate his kidney, but De La Vega declined the gracious offer, hoping her sister would be a suitable donor, but he persisted.
"He came back to me one year later, and I didn't even go back to him because I thought how could we be a match," said De La Vega, a Filipina immigrant and single mother of two.
Testing showed De La Vega's sister was not a match but Coyne was, prompting him to surprise De La Vega with the news at work.
"They gave me the card, and it said you are match I couldn't believe it," said De La Vega, who had been undergoing grueling eight-hour dialysis treatments every night.
"I was speechless," she said. "I was hugging him and thanking him.
Coyne said, "I came from around the counter [where I was ] hiding, held her hand and told her I was a match. She just busted out crying with joy. Actually, her knees buckled, and I had to get her off the floor she was so happy."
Last week, doctors at Northwestern University Hospital successfully transplanted Coyne's left kidney to De La Vega.
"I feel a little sore," De La Vega said. "I am so happy. It's still overwhelming but in a positive way. I felt there's God's intervention. I brushed off Dan so many times, and he kept coming back."
Both Coyne and De La Vega hope their story will inspire others to help the 84,000 Americans waiting for kidney donations.