Newswise — This November 11, and every Veterans Day, Americans organize parades and ceremonies to honor all veterans who have served, and those currently serving, in the U.S. military.

But Julie Donohue paid tribute to one veteran in her own special way - she donated a kidney to Army veteran, Mark Klayman.  

“I was touched by Mark’s military service,” said Donohue, who also noted that Mark was the same age as her husband. “I thought, I’m healthy, why not, I’m going to do this.”

Julie heard about veterans in need of kidney donations through the non-profit organization, Donor Outreach for Veterans or DOVE, which matches living donors and veterans awaiting transplant. DOVE paired Julie, who lives in Florida, with Klayman, living in New Jersey, and in desperate need of a kidney. 

"I lost my ability to walk, I had to use a cane, I had no strength whatsoever,” said Klayman. 

Within a few weeks of connecting with DOVE, Donohue’s kidney was removed in Tampa and flown to Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, New Jersey, where Mark and his doctors were ready and waiting.

“It’s one of the most selfless acts a person can do, donating an organ,” said Michael J. Goldstein, MD, Director, Division of Organ Transplantation, Hackensack University Medical Center. “Julie’s gift to Mark, a veteran who served our country well, will allow him to enjoy his life with his family for many years to come.”  

Klayman, who works for Freedom Mortgage, a leading VA & FHA lender, said before he got the call about Donohue’s donation - he was ready to give up - but today - he has a whole new lease on life. 

"My wife and I are so happy. My children and grandchildren are so happy. I can do things again. I can walk any distance. I feel fantastic and I can even chase after my great grandchild," Klayman said.

Klayman was feeling so fantastic he and his wife recently flew to Florida to meet Donohue and thank her in person. 

"It became real when I saw him, I felt how he felt and it was the best hug ever when I met Mark,” said Donohue.

The families have become fast friends and are now hoping their story will encourage others to consider donating a kidney. Currently, more than 100,000 Americans are in need of a kidney transplant, including thousands of U.S. military veterans.

“I can’t think of anything more gratifying than to support this special group of men and women who have sacrificed so very much for our country,” said Dr. Goldstein. 

Hackensack University Medical Center provides top-notch organ transplant care from a dedicated team of organ transplantation experts, with shorter wait times and outcomes that exceed the national standards. At Hackensack University Medical Center, the transplant surgery team performs kidney and pancreas transplants using the latest donor matching protocols and advanced techniques that are only available at the world’s leading transplant centers. 

Typically, once recovered from surgery, donors resume their normal, active life with no restrictions. Donors often feel heightened self-esteem and seem healthier after their donation.