Last November, Debby Neal-Strickland said “I do” to her longtime love,Jim Strickland. It was 10 years after their first date and just two days after they tied the knot, she traded in her wedding gown for a hospital gown and donated a kidney to Mylaen Merthe… her new husband’s ex-wife.
It’s unusual, but not surprising for those who know the kindhearted woman from Florida. Debby and Jim are currently raising six kids at their home in Ocala, some are her biological grandchildren and some are foster kids. Jim and Mylaen have been divorced for nearly two decades, but have always gotten along well as they raised their kids. His 59-year-old ex-wife has long struggled with kidney disease and was in desperate need of a transplant, so his 56-year-old fiancé volunteered to get tested and she was a match.
Debby was motivated to help Mylaen because she was about to become a grandmother for the first time and she couldn’t imagine her missing that. She also watched her brother die of cystic fibrosis while waiting for a double lung transplant and she didn’t want that to happen to Mylaen. The transplant was a success and now the women call themselves kidney sisters and they’re enjoying their grandkids together. “This is what the world is about. Family,” Mylaen says. “We need to stick together. She saved my life.”