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A Friendship That Saved A Life

May 27, 2014, 10:13 PM by Matt Holsen

A Friendship That Saved A Life

Mayya Andrushchenko and Kayla McCaffrey are from different backgrounds, different countries even. They met in college, became friends and in Mayya's case, it's a friendship that's saved her life.

You meet a lot of new people during your freshman year in college. It was no different for these South Dakota State University newcomers.

"We met in speech class. We just kind of went from there. It was instant connection. It was really weird actually," McCaffrey said.

They just fit together and it wasn't long before they were best friends. It's turned out to be a priceless connection for Ukrainian-born Mayya. She moved to the United States when she was six to see if anything could be done to fix her underdeveloped kidney.

After several surgeries and a long struggle, things were going ok until last year when doctors told her she would need a new kidney.

"This is such a major road block in my map of goals and life events that it was just a complete shock to me," Andrushchenko said.

It's not something your typical 20-year-old college student has to deal with. And Mayya had a hard time coming to grips with how to handle the situation.

"You know if it takes going on dialysis I'll do that," Andrushchenko said. "I'm not just going to wait around basically for someone to die in order to get a kidney. And I'm not about to go out there and ask people, 'Hey do you want to save my life?'"

Lucky for her, it's a question she never had to ask. When she told Kayla about her kidneys and needing a donor, her friend offered up one of hers on the spot.

"I told her to give me the information right then and there, like right away. She was really hesitant. She didn't want to. She was like, 'No, you don't have to do this.' I said I want to, it would be kind of cool. She gave me the number to call and they sent me a little kit in the mail and I had to mail it back," McCaffrey said.

It was a long shot. In fact, the chances of Kayla being a match were 1 in 200,000.

"(I expected) I wasn't going to be a match. I honestly thought that," McCaffrey said.

When she called to find out the results, she was put on hold for ten minutes.

"It was really long and then they told me, hey by the way you're a match. I didn't believe what I was hearing at all, I didn't," McCaffrey said.

She kept true to her word and before long the two were at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, ready for the transplant. The procedure took place May 13th and as you can probably guess with how this story has been going, it worked better than even doctors expected.

A typical kidney transplanted into another person takes anywhere from ten minutes to five hours to start working.

"With me and Kayla, all the doctors had to do was, as soon as they hooked it up, it started working on the second minute of it being inside of me," Andrushchenko said.

For Mayya, the whole process from the beginning of a friendship to today, as she recovers for weeks at Mayo, has been nothing short of a miracle. A day after their surgeries the two saw each other for the first time.

"It was really whimsical, it was nonchalant like hey, how are you? I'm inside you now. She was like, 'Kayla, shut up.' It was pretty good," McCaffrey said.

It was a light moment but one each will remember forever. The two are now connected in a very special way years after meeting for the first time in a freshman speech class in Brookings.

"I think there is something bigger in control of everything," McCaffrey said.

It's something that's given Mayya a new lease on life, a life she thanks Kayla for every day.

"It's because of you that I'm alive and it's because of you that I finally have motivation to wake up every morning and say to myself, today's going to be a good day because today's a gift. It's a gift because you gave me life and I'm going to cherish it every single waking day," Andrushchenko said.

If you are interested in donating, visit Mayya's page

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