Chance encounter at Miami Valley Hospital leads to life-saving gift

Paige Hartley (left) met Taryn Wolfe (right) at Miami Valley Hospital in August of 2017 and that brief encounter inspired her to donate her kidney to Wolfe. Without knowing if she was a match, Hartley spent the next year losing enough weight to be healthy enough to donate. In September of 2018 she was confirmed to be a match for donation. A successful transplant surgery took place at OSU Wexner Medical Center in November. (courtesy Paige Hartley)

DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - They met by chance at Miami Valley Hospital more than a year ago, now two Miami Valley women have a bond that they'll tell you saved both of their lives.

Inside 28-year-old Taryn Wolfe's Miami Valley home this October, boxes were stacked from floor to ceiling. Each one was filled with a 31 pound bag of dialysis fluid.

It's not the life Wolfe expected to be living.

"I do dialysis every night at home, 8 to 10 hours, depending on the alarms and everything else," Wolfe said.

Wolfe is in stage four kidney failure. It's a reality that's continuing to get worse by the day.

"Over the past couple of months I've actually gone downhill," Wolfe said. "I've missed more work. I've just been more sick. I've been more tired. I haven't been able to do what I want to do."

However, this life is soon going to change thanks to a chance encounter at Miami Valley Hospital more than a year ago with Emergency Room Tech Paige Hartley.

"I just felt some thing for some reason was telling me to do what I had to do to help her," said Hartley.

Hartley happened to be working in August 2017 when Wolfe came in with a blood infection.

"She was actually not taking care of me that day, but she just so happened to take me from my room downstairs to my room upstairs to be transported to Cleveland," Wolfe said.

"I was talking to her," Hartley said. "I learned her name. I learned her story. I learned what her situation was, and then I just took her upstairs and dropped her off, and then I thought that was the end of it."

"Within that five minute window, it was a complete game-changer," Wolfe said.

"I dropped her off and I was like, I could actually help her," Hartley said. "I could do something that could totally change everything."

So that night, Hartley contacted Wolfe over Facebook.

"I sent her a message," Hartley said. "We had mutual friends, and I thought, 'She's going to think I'm crazy'."

"I remember the messages," Wolfe said. "She told me she's like, 'You probably think I'm crazy, which I probably am. I have no idea who you are but I feel very compelled to help'."

There was a problem though; Hartley said she wasn't in a position to donate a kidney. She said at the time she met Wolfe, she was severely overweight.

"I always wanted to change," Hartley said. "I never wanted to be unhealthy. I never was like, man, I want to wake up and be overweight today. I want to wake up and be out of breath when I go up stairs. That's never something I wanted to do. I always wanted to lose weight, but I guess I never had the gumption."

Hartley says meeting Wolfe, gave her that push.

"That next day I stopped drinking Diet Coke completely," Hartley said. "It was awful. I had a headache for four days. So that next day, I completely changed everything. Just like that."

A mix of diet and exercise helped Hartley lose 65 pounds over the next year. The two former strangers also became close friends.

"Paige has stuck by, every day, every week, every last second," Wolfe said. "She's been a friend."

Then in September of this year, there was a special birthday surprise. Hartley wrote Wolfe a letter sharing some big news.

Wolfe read us an expert of it: "So just breathe Taryn, I'm a match and you're getting my kidney. We did it. Love you, Paige."

"And it is the best thing I've ever been able to read," Wolfe said.

Hartley had spent the year getting healthy without even knowing if she was a match. A test had just confirmed she was. So in November, less than a week before Thanksgiving, Hartley and Wolfe prepared for surgery at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. A new life is on the horizon for Wolfe.

"I won't have to do dialysis," Wolfe said. "I'll be able to work a full week at work. I'll be back to where I want to be."

The surgery lasted a little more than two hours. It was an incredibly delicate and deliberate process and takes a team of surgeons, nurses and support staff. In the end, a successful kidney transplant was made and two lives were changed.

Just three days later, Wolfe was in recovery. Doctors said she's already in good enough shape to go home a few days before Thanksgiving.

Wolfe said she'll be thankful to the staff at Wexner Medical Center and to the Miami Valley ER Tech who decided to help.

"It doesn't matter what happens next year or the following year," Wolfe said, "but the fact that you saved my life when I needed my life saved the most, is something that I will be forever grateful for."

Wolfe's family started a GoFundMe to help with her medical expenses. If you'd like to donate, you can here.

Also, if you'd like to learn more about organ donation and how to register, you can visit Life Connection of Ohio.

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