Perfect Match: Kentucky Woman's Kidney Donation to Stranger Leads to Love
Engaged eight months after surgery, Ashley McIntyre and Danny Robinson now are building a future together
Ashley McIntyre didn’t know Danny Robinson when she volunteered to help him. But eight months after giving him her kidney, they are now looking forward to starting a family together.
The Kentucky couple – both 26 – became engaged last Christmas. It was a whirlwind romance that began after McIntyre’s mother heard a radio appeal in January 2014 about Robinson’s need for a kidney, and McIntyre reached out.
His story had touched her heart: Diagnosed at age 16 with a kidney disease that eventually put him on dialysis three days a week, Robinson had spent two years on the transplant waiting list. None of his family members were a match. In addition, Robinson’s father had died of cancer.
“He was so young,” McIntyre says of Robinson, in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It was devastating.”
Working through the University of Kentucky transplant center, McIntyre volunteered to give Robinson her kidney and underwent testing. This made her a rarity according to the center as only 1 percent of living kidney donations come from strangers.
With the match established, the two families agreed to meet. “We all clicked immediately,” McIntyre says. “They told me I would always be a part of their family.”
Yet more than that, she and Robinson clicked. They began to exchange phone calls and texts, but rebuffed friends who joked they should date, for fear of complicating the situation.
After the April 17 procedure, with both in the hospital, she visited his room, and they signed one another’s kidney-shaped pillows. “Words cannot express how much [you’ve] done for me,” he wrote. “Ashley, you’re an angel,” read the engraved inscription on a musical jewelry box presented to her by his family.
Out of the hospital, the two stayed in touch, and the relationship grew more serious after a Memorial Day barbecue. “It was really clear early on that this was ‘it,’ ” McIntyre says.
McIntyre soon became pregnant, and on Christmas Day 2014, Robinson decided to pop the question.
“We went to my mom’s and started opening gifts,” Robinson told the Courier-Journal. “I told her I’d forgotten one and pulled out a small box.”
He dropped to his knees as he presented the engagement ring.
With a wedding date yet to be set, the couple is now looking forward to the June 9 due date of a baby girl they’ve decided to name Berkli. And the expectant dad says he has more energy than before.
“I feel great, better than I’ve ever felt,” he says. “I have more of a life.”
Robinson knows he’ll be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of his life, with a kidney transplant giving the recipient another 25 to 30 years, according to surgeon Dr. Malay Shah. “My expectation,” says Shah, “is he’ll live longer than that.”
Says McIntyre: “I never in a million years imagined this would happen It’s crazy how it all worked out. It was all planned out by God.”