On Aug. 7, Sgt. Jacob Chadwick, 23, of San Marcos, Calif., underwent a four-and-a-half hour kidney transplant at UC San Diego Medical Center 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.
Now, both the Wayland and the Chadwick families have told ABCNews.com that they would like to meet, when the Waylands have moved pass the aftershocks of grief and Chadwick has healed from his surgery.
"What they did was pretty great," Chadwick said. "A piece of their son is keeping me alive. Eventually, I think they should [get to know the person] who their son's kidney went to."
Carole Wayland, Patrick's mother, said, "I think we absolutely would like to make that happen. I feel [Jacob] carries a piece of Patrick on with him, and so it's almost like he's a living legacy of Patrick."
"I plan on meeting [Jacob] and becoming his lifetime friend," said Patrick's father, David Wayland. "It's like our story would have had a sad ending. But now, it really doesn't."
Race to Find a Matching Donor
Currently, nearly 90,000 Americans are on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, according to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. In 2010, there were 16,898 kidney donations in the U.S.
As of December 2010, 36 U.S. servicemembers had donated 141 organs to gravely ill patients in the previous five years, according to an article in the military publication "Stars and Stripes."
Since then, Chadwick endured dialysis treatments for three and a half hours each day for rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis, a condition that caused his immune system to attack his kidneys, slowly scarring them beyond repair.
His wife, Victoria, 28, nursed their first-born, Ella Marie, and worried about him.
"It's pretty wearing on you, physically and mentally, sitting in the chair ... getting that treatment so that you can get by every day," said Victoria 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 with Type O blood to match Jacob's. They were informed by UC San Diego Medical Center that the average wait time in San Diego County to get a cadaver kidney that would match his blood type was four to five years.
In an effort to find an immediate donor, the couple contacted Operation Gratitude. Victoria had volunteered with the group during her husband's deployment in Iraq the previous year. The organization promptly sent out a newsletter about Chadwick's need, and word quickly spread via Facebook and Twitter.
Finding A Kidney Recipient: 'Marine Needs Transplant'
On Aug. 5, Lt. Jeffrey Moore, a Navy flight surgeon at the Naval Aviation School's command, acted as a witness when Carole Wayland signed her son's organ donor forms at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. Lt. Moore said that Wayland expressed in passing that she would like one of her son's organs to be donated to a fellow Marine.
He said, "That's kind of a mantra of the Marine Corps: taking care of your own."
Late that evening, Lt. Moore entered three words into a Google search: Marine needs transplant. Operation Gratitude's website popped up.
Lt. Moore helped the Wayland family donate their son's organs to five recipients, all of whom remain anonymous except for the receiver of Wayland's kidney: Jacob Chadwick.
"My job is to take care of aviators and being that [Patrick] was at Sacred Heart Hospital where I couldn't really do anything, I felt like this is my way of helping the family, giving them a happy ending to a tragic event," Lt. Moore said.
Brian Ferguson, an attorney and friend of the Waylands, was later able to track down Chadwick based solely on the Marine's name, location, and the knowledge that only a few hospitals in San Diego performed kidney transplants.
Ferguson made the call to UC San Diego Medical Center after Chadwick's procedure to give him the choice of learning more about his organ donor.
"It was nerve-wracking on my part to try to figure out what the other person would want to know but also not to offend him in any way," Ferguson said. "We thought he would want to know, and it turns out we were right. But honestly we wanted to know, too."
"You don't know the number of people who were praying for [Chadwick], the number of people who really, really wanted this to work: it was staggering. [Chadwick] was sort of hospital hero in Pensacola, and he had never even met any of us. But we all knew we wanted this to work," Ferguson said.
The United Network for Organ Sharing operates the nation's organ transplant system under a contract with the federal government. Anne Paschky, a spokeswoman for the network, said that directed donations, when the donor chooses a recipient, are rare. But Wayland's case, in which the donation was directed to a complete stranger, is even more so. "You don't hear about that kind of directed donation very often--where you don't know the person," she said.
In most cases when both the donor and recipient are anonymous, donors typically go through their state's Organ Procurement Organization if they wish to contact the recipient, Paschky said. And, recipients contact the transplant hospital to facilitate communication with the organ donor. But Paschky noted, "[The process] doesn't necessarily always apply in a case as different as this."
On the evening of Aug. 6, after his family decided where Wayland's organs would go, the young Marine was removed from life support.
That same morning, the Chadwicks received a phone call from the hospital: They had found a potential match.
"We were at home. We were actually going to take Ella to the Sea World for the first time," said Victoria. "We couldn't even move after that call."
Chadwick underwent successful kidney transplant surgery the next day. On Aug. 11, he was released from the hospital and into a "second chance at life."
"You always just want to do better the second time around at anything, I think," Chadwick said. "It makes me want to appreciate my life more, be a great father and a better husband."
Organ Donor and Recipient To Meet
Amid the grief over their own son's death, the Wayland family received a measure of contentment after the transplant.
"At first it seemed like our prayers weren't answered because Patrick didn't sit up in bed and start talking," David Wayland said, "But then you realize … just think of how many of those five recipients who had been out there praying, probably for a long time. Think of all those people who all the sudden get a phone call in the middle of the night saying 'You'll never believe this, our prayers have been answered: we found a donor.' So yea, our prayers have been answered now."
Both families have expressed interest to ABCNews.com in making contact with each other in the future.
"It's weird you know I don't even know them, but ultimately I guess I am connected--and I always will be connected to them," Chadwick said. "…What they did was pretty incredible so for that reason I'd love to meet them."
Carole Wayland, who was struck by the resemblance between her son and Chadwick, said: "I think absolutely that [meeting Chadwick] would be a remarkable thing. It gives us a lot of strength and encouragement that there may have been five other lives that were impacted by [Patrick.] ... He was willing to lay down his life. He did it in a different way from what he envisioned, but he still made that sacrifice."
David Wayland said that he would also like to meet the recipients of his son's other organs, especially the recipient of his son's heart.
"I wonder if someone who gets his heart, if their personality starts changing a little bit, or if they taking on some of [Patrick's] mannerisms," Wayland said. "If you had just known my son for five minutes, he had a heart of gold for real."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.