"It was a pretty big miracle for her," Tom Mone, CEO of One Legacy, tells PEOPLE

By Jodi Guglielmi and Christine Pelisek
Updated January 01, 2016 05:30 PM
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AP Photo/Matt Sayles

During Natalie Cole’s lifetime, she suffered a substantial amount of health problems, including undergoing a kidney transplant after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2008.

Now in the wake of her death, Tom Mone, CEO of One Legacy (the United States’ largest organ recovery agency), recalls Cole’s “miracle” path to finding a kidney, and his last encounter with the star.

“Back in 2009 she received a kidney donation from a donor family that we recovered,” Mone tells PEOPLE. “The family made a specific request to make a direct donation to her because they knew of her need for a kidney.”

Mone explains that when the donor family lost their loved one, after hearing of Cole’s illness through the media, they specifically asked if the kidney could be given to Cole, which “was a very generous thing to do.”

He says the kidney saved Cole’s life.

“It was a pretty big miracle for her. And it gave her almost five or six years of life.”

Mone says just two months after Cole received her transplant, he with her at a fundraising event.

“She was doing wonderfully,” he recalled. “She was very gracious and grateful for having her life saved by the transplant. She was very sweet.”

Cole spoke with the donor’s family and “there was gratitude from both sides,” says Mone.

At the event, she also spoke first-hand about her experience receiving a kidney transplant with the help of One Legacy.

“She was full of gratitude.”