Steve and Faye Melton have been together 44 years, but they have never been closer than they will be on Friday morning.
On Good Friday, a day that celebrates sacrifice, Faye Melton will donate a healthy kidney to her husband, another step in a journey that began when Steve was 9 years old.
"I hope it's a good omen that this will be Good Friday," Steve says. "I was also in the hospital last Easter and I don't want this to become a habit."
Steve was in grade school when his kidneys first sent out warning signs. He was diagnosed with nephritis, a chronic inflammation of the kidneys that put him in bed for his entire fourth grade year.
He fought off effects of the disease in his youth and was healthy enough to play college basketball. After college and law school, he became a successful banker and was good enough with numbers to understand the risks he would face when he was older.
"It got to be an issue when I turned 50, and there has been a decline over the past 14 years. I've been going to Emory for treatment for 12 years and they have helped me manage the disease," said Melton, an executive vice president of Ameris Bank in Moultrie, Ga., since retiring as president of Columbus Bank & Trust in 2011.
He managed it well until last July when he suffered a stroke while vacationing in Florida.
"It affected my balance," he said. "I started carrying a cane so people wouldn't think I was drinking."
This led to him spending three hours a day, three times a week on dialysis, which isn't pleasant.
By the time he recovered from one treatment, it was time for another.
As the progression of End Stage Renal Disease continued, a kidney transplant seemed inevitable, but he was aware of the odds. Finding a donor isn't easy and every year 4,000 patients die while waiting on a healthy organ.
Wanting to do something, Faye volunteered. The odds of her being compatible were slim, but she passed every test.
Love overcame the odds and it was a surprise and a blessing when they got the news that she could be his donor.
Doctors begin that delicate procedure early Friday in Atlanta and the Meltons have faith in the outcome.
"I wouldn't wish what I've had on anyone, but I have great doctors, a great hospital and a great wife," he said. "Faith has carried us through. You have to believe that it is more than medicine, that it is the Good Lord that heals."
There are also friends and as Steve Melton told them in a caring email, "I could not make it through this journey without you."
Or a special lady named Faye.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.