‘So blessed’: Woman donates kidney to best friend after helping her heal from son’s death

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 3:20 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2021 at 6:11 AM EST
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ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - A St. Louis woman proved good friends show their love in times of trouble by helping to mend her best friend’s broken heart and then donating her kidney.

Carol Patrylo says her friend, Cindy Mueller, saved her life, and she isn’t exaggerating. The two met when they were both working as aides in the Lindbergh School District.

“I think we had an instant connection,” Patrylo said. “I thought she was sweet and just loving, and she thought I was nuts. That made her laugh, and I am crazier than a lunatic.”

Cindy Mueller, left, lost 54 pounds in order to donate a kidney to her best friend, Carol...
Cindy Mueller, left, lost 54 pounds in order to donate a kidney to her best friend, Carol Patrylo, who had gone into stage 5 kidney failure.(Source: Family photos, KSDK via CNN)

But Patrylo’s world was shattered when her 19-year-old son Todd was killed by a drunk driver in June 2000. Her only comfort was that he was an organ donor and helped save other lives.

While Mueller supported her and helped her through, the light inside of Patrylo had gone out.

“I watched this woman lose her will to live. There were times that I would go to her house, get her dressed and drive her to work, just so I knew she wouldn’t lay in her bed all day,” Mueller said.

After years of not taking care of herself, Patrylo went into stage 5 kidney failure, and her doctor had to put her on dialysis. Her best option was a kidney transplant, so Mueller got tested to see if she was a match.

“I didn’t have to think about it. It was an instant thing: my best friend needs a kidney,” Mueller said.

Almost miraculously, Mueller was a match, but she faced another problem: she was overweight and pre-diabetic.

“I said, ‘Well, I’m on a journey, and I’m losing weight. So, we’re going to make this happen,’” she said.

With diet and exercise, Mueller lost 54 pounds, and doctors at Saint Louis University Hospital were able to perform a successful transplant surgery in December.

“It’s extremely rewarding for us. I mean, that’s why we went into this field,” surgeon Dr. Henry Randall said.

Mueller calls the donation a win-win.

“So, in giving her the gift of life, I was also able to give myself the gift of a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

Patrylo is promising to make the most of her second chance, and for the rest of their journey, neither she nor Mueller will ever walk alone.

“I’ve got a lot to live for, and I’m so blessed to have a friend like Cindy,” Patrylo said.

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