A year after Sgt. Jacob Chadwick, 23, was deployed to Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 1, he returned to his home in San Marcos, Calif., only to suffer blinding, week-long headaches: the first sign of his failing kidneys.
Last Sunday, Chadwick underwent a four-and-a-half hour kidney transplant that saved his life. His kidney donor was a fellow Marine, 24-year-old Lt. Patrick Wayland from Midland, Texas, who went into cardiac arrest on Aug. 1 at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida.
On Friday, while the Waylands were attending their son's funeral services, Chadwick was visiting the UC San Diego Medical Center to check on his measured recovery.
The Chadwick family said that they would like the Waylands eventually to make contact.
"What they did was pretty great. A piece of their son is keeping me alive," Chadwick said. "Eventually, I think they should [get to know the person] who their son's kidney went to."
Race to Find a Matching Donor
Nearly 90,000 Americans are on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, according to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.
As of December 2010, 36 U.S. service members had donated 141 organs to gravely ill patients in the previous five years, according to a news article in the military publication "Stars and Stripes."
For the last eight months, Chadwick endured dialysis treatments for three and a half hours every day for his condition, rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis, in which his immune system attacked his kidneys, slowly scarring them beyond repair.
Victoria nursed their first-born and worried about her husband.
"It's pretty wearing on you, physically and mentally, sitting in the chair ... getting that treatment so that you can get by every day," Victoria said about her husband's treatment. "He would come home really tired and not feeling too well."
The Chadwicks were desperately searching for a kidney donor whose blood type would match Jacob's rare Type O.
"[The hospital] told us that a Type O donor could take an average of four to five years to receive, Victoria said. "And that was not guaranteed either."
The Chadwicks contacted Operation Gratitude, with which Victoria had volunteered, sending packages to soldiers during her husband's deployment. The organization promptly sent out a newsletter about Chadwick's need, and word quickly spread via Facebook and Twitter.