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Enduring love and the gift of life

Enduring love and the gift of life

Husband benefits from living kidney donation from wife of 32 years

When someone meets their perfect match, it’s typically the stuff of fairytales – lifelong love and happily ever after. For transplant patients in need of an organ donation, meeting their perfect match is the gift of life personified. For Mani Jacob and Soma Mani, their unbreakable bond includes both love and a donated kidney.

Their journey began in May of 1992 when the couple was married alongside friends and family in a ceremony in South India.

“I remember thinking he was so handsome,” Soma said, smiling. “And I remember thinking she was the most beautiful woman in the world,” said Mani, recalling the first time the couple met.

A few years after they were married, the pair moved tens of thousands of miles away from India to Dallas to pursue careers in healthcare. As the years passed Texas became home, it was where they raised their three daughters, celebrated becoming proud grandparents and enjoyed their thriving careers as pharmacy technicians – Mani working at Parkland Health and Soma at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

However, in 2021 Mani, who had preexisting diabetes, was diagnosed with severe COVID-19. He was ultimately hospitalized in the intensive care unit (ICU). The family learned his kidneys had irreparable damage, no longer working as they should at filtering out the waste from his bloodstream and it was clear Mani would need a transplant.

Mani’s care team at Parkland recommended a preemptive transplant, where the procedure is performed before kidney function deteriorates to the point of needing dialysis to replace the normal function of the organs. Routinely, preemptive transplants are from living donors – as most people can live healthy, normal lives with just one kidney. According to the National Kidney Foundation, benefits of a living kidney transplant for the recipient include shorter wait times and, on average, the organ lasts longer than that from a deceased donor.

Mani’s family members did not hesitate to try and became a donor, his daughters and his brother all were tested but were not a match. But Soma held on to the hope that she could be the one to save the love of her life.

“After the initial conversation in the hospital that he would need a kidney transplant, God placed it in my mind and on my heart a desire to donate my kidney to my husband,” she said.

Soma underwent testing to determine if this was a possibility. The results revealed what could only be described as a twist of fate—Soma was indeed a combatable donor for Mani. Though she would need to make a few lifestyle changes, a challenge she gladly accepted. She would spend the next few months following a strict exercise routine, tracking calories and working with a dietitian to improve her overall health in order to be in the best shape possible ahead of surgery.

For Soma, the decision to donate her kidney was a no-brainer. It was an opportunity to give her husband the gift of life, to repay him for the love and devotion he had shown her throughout their marriage. And for Mani, it was a testament to the depth of their bond, a reminder that they truly were a perfect match, in more ways than one.

Mani’s transplant on November 8, 2023, at Parkland Memorial Hospital was a success, and as he recovered, their love story took on a new significance. It was no longer just about two individuals brought together by tradition, but about two souls intertwined in a journey of love, sacrifice and unwavering devotion.

“This is a love story as much as it’s a patient success story,” said Joe Lockridge, MD, Medical Director of Kidney Transplantation at Parkland, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “It’s very impactful to see how someone’s altruism translates into a direct benefit to someone else’s health, especially someone they care about deeply.”

Both Soma and Mani are doing well. Mani was welcomed back to work on March 16, 2024, his Parkland colleagues gladly celebrating his return to the very hospital that saved his life. The couple is looking forward to celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary next month.

When asked what this experience has meant to him, Mani paused, then replied, “this is all God’s grace, God’s big grace.”

For more information about Parkland’s Kidney Transplant Program, visit www.parklandhealth.org/kidney-transplant. For more information about Parkland services, visit www.parklandhealth.org.

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