It's estimated there are 100,000 people on a national kidney transplant list. They're likely on dialysis indefinitely, waiting for a phone call that a compatible donor kidney is available. A man named Danny Tighe from Luzerne County was one of those people, until just a few weeks ago. That's when a woman he knew as a girl- a grade-school classmate he hadn't seen in 31 years- offered to give him one of hers.
The tanned and healthy-looking Danny Tighe invited us to his home in Pittston last week, showing us around the beautiful garden that is his backyard.
"I feel wonderful," he said. "Everybody tells me I look different."
He does look much different from the day we first met him, just before Memorial Day at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville, moments before he was wheeled into surgery. Danny, now 44, was diagnosed in 2011 with end-stage renal disease. He needed a kidney. He'd been on dialysis for two years, what he describes as "torture."
"It's a constant in your life. Takes up a lot of time. I wasn't allowed to work, it's very overwhelming," Danny said.
He was on a national kidney transplant list, but at his doctor's suggestion, he set up a Facebook page to help find a match. That's when his past became his future.
"At 8th grade we went to different high schools. So we hadn't been in touch since then," Anne Crew told us. She now lives in Pottstown, but she grew up in Duryea and attended Holy Rosary School. She remembers there were only 18 kids in her small class. One of them was Danny Tighe.
"I liked his page, and the first thing I saw was that he was A positive. And I thought- I'm A positive. I could do this," Anne recalls.
Anne's a busy, married mother of four children ages seven-to-14. She laughs remembering what her husband said when she first brought it up to him.
"He was like, 'I know you. Once it's in your head, that's it! I don't think there's much to say! I will support you.'"
Medically she was a great match. The only hurdle was finding time to schedule it.
"When i would think about that, all I'd think is, why am I questioning this? Danny has to go to dialysis 3 times a week for 8 hours! That's a scheduling nightmare," she said.
"It speaks high volumes about individuals in our society who are really, really caring," said Dr. Chintalapati Varma, a transplant surgeon at Geisinger who did Anne's surgery. He calls it his honor to have worked with her, and notes that she left the hospital the day after the operation.
"Usually after a week or so they're fine, back to their normal activities," Dr. Varma told us.
As for Danny, less than a month after the kidney transplant, he admits he tires easily but is off dialysis and feeling great.
"I think I'm gonna feel better than my old self. Because I was sick quite a long time before my kidney failed. I just didn't know it," he said.
And as for his bond with Anne? He now often tells her that everyday is Thanksgiving.
"We're family now. Her family, my family, we're family now," he said.