You never know what can happen when you swipe right.
Erika Bragan, a 47-year-old mother of two who suffers from a genetic disorder called polycystic kidney disease, will receive a new kidney on November 18 – and it’s all thanks to the popular dating app Tinder, where users are matched up if both “swipe right” on each other’s photos.
Luck at First Swipe
Rich O’Dea, 43, close family friend of the Bragans, took Jennifer Thomas, 35, to an Imagine Dragons show in Tampa, Florida, on July 10 after the two connected on the social dating app.
Little did he know that his blind date would forever change the lives of his best friends, Scott and Erika Bragan, and their two children, Madison, 14, and Spencer, 11.
At the concert, O’Dea and Thomas, both of Tampa, Florida, hit it off – talking about everything from favorite foods to interesting hobbies.
When O’Dea mentioned that his friend’s wife was in desperate need of a new kidney, Thomas’ heart immediately went out to the mom. With an O-negative blood type, Erika had been on the kidney transplant list for almost three years.
“I felt for Erika,” Thomas, who is the mother of a 9-year-old son, tells PEOPLE. “I’m a mom and she’s a mom and I just couldn’t imagine being in her shoes and her children losing their mother. I knew I had to find a way to help her.”
A week after their date, Thomas texted O’Dea to see if there was a way to find out if she could be a match for Bragan.
“I was surprised to hear from her,” O’Dea tells PEOPLE. “I didn t realize she was completely serious about being a kidney donor. We were on a Tinder date, after all! But that just speaks to her character – she is so passionate and caring and driven.”
Thomas and O’Dea decided not to pursue a romantic relationship, but O’Dea put his date in contact with the Bragans to see if another kind of match could be made.
A Perfect Match
After three months of testing, which included blood work, a 24-hour urine analysis and a CT scan, doctors at Tampa General Hospital determined that Thomas was indeed a transplant match for Bragan.
“Jennifer is our angel, she came down from heaven and blessed us!” Erika’s husband, Scott, who spearheads a marathon team that has raised over $125,000 for polycystic kidney disease research since 2009, tells PEOPLE. “We are so thankful, the planets aligned and Tinder gave her an angel. It’s a story you just can’t make up.”
Although Thomas and O’Dea only went on the one date, the two became fast friends, and the Bragan family now considers Thomas and her son a part of the family.
“We cannot thank her enough for her generosity,” Scott says. “So many things had to align for this to come together. Everything happens for a reason and as weird as it sounds, we have a dating app to thank for saving my wife’s life.”