Five years after she donated her kidney to a stranger, Teresa Dobson has met the man whose life she saved, and both broke down in tears.
Mrs Dobson, 62, had not considered donating a kidney until she heard on the radio it was possible and thought to herself “I think I could do that for somebody”.
“I have good health and I had two kidneys and I only needed one of them,” she said.
“So I thought why not give one to somebody else to help give them a better life and maybe save their life.”
That person was Joe Salvatore, who she finally met this week after the pair exchanged anonymous letters for years.
“We’ve got on really well,” Mrs Dobson said after their emotional first meeting.
“And we’ve certainly got something in common.”
Mr Salvatore, from New Malden in Surrey, said his “life has changed” since the transplant and he was feeling stronger.
“Everybody says how much better I look. I feel better. I feel fitter,” he said.
The 70-year-old said it has also allowed him to continue his training in martial arts, which is his passion and keeps him fit.
“Teresa’s made my life a whole new life again and I’m able to enjoy my life with my family, with my group of friends,” he said.
“What a wonderful person Teresa is, and people like her, who can actually donate to somebody they don’t even know.”
The modest Mrs Dobson, from Kettering in Northamptonshire, played down her donation, which was organised through the charity Give a Kidney.
It was “just one of those things” she could do to help, saying she would rather do that than run a marathon.
“Lots of people do lots of wonderful things for people, like running marathons and raising thousands of pounds,” she said.
“Well I hate running and I’d rather give a kidney away any day.”
She said donating an organ also “gives back a lot” to the giver.
“When I met Joe today, that feeling I had inside, it doesn’t get much better than that,” she said.
Mr Salvatore had been treated for renal failure for 15 years until eventually doctors made it clear he needed an urgent transplant because both kidneys were severely failing.
His wife and daughter had both initially offered their kidneys, but doctors found they were not suitable.
His daughter Carmel Dalby did however donate her kidney to another stranger in a four-way altruistic donor chain to help her father receive one.
“Really if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have got a kidney,” he said of his daughter.
“And I’m really grateful for her. She’s a nice, strong girl and I’m really proud of her.”
Mrs Dobson and Mr Salvatore at first exchanged occasional anonymous letters, arranged through their hospital transplant units.
“He’d been in touch with me every year since, letting me know how he was getting on, and I always responded,” Mrs Dobson said.
Then one day she sent a letter to Mr Salvatore, suggesting they could meet up in person, and he was “very happy” to do so.
“I was very nervous,” Mr Salvatore said of his state before the meeting.
“Meeting Teresa for the first time today, I promised I’d be strong. But of course at the end I wasn’t. I did break down a bit.
“It was very nice to meet her. A lovely woman.”
Mrs Dobson broke down too, wiping tears from her eyes after she received flowers and a warm embrace.
“It’s so special to see you,” she said. “You look so well.”