Ten years after their first date, Floridan couple Debby Neal-Strickland and Jim Merthe got married at their church in Fort Lauderdale.

Two days later, Debby traded in her wedding gown for a hospital gown and donated a kidney to Mylaen Merthe, her new husband's ex-wife.

An unusual story, of course, but it is a story of how compassion makes bigger waves than division.

59-year-old Mylaen has long struggled with kidney disease. By last year, she had to fight in and out of work every day as she came in exhausted. When she was admitted to the hospital back in November, her kidneys were operating at 8%.


Jim and Mylaen have been divorced nearly two decades, but the two still get along decently through the raising of their two kids and Jim's falling in love with Debby.

At family gatherings with the kids, Mylaen and Debby were friendly with each other, but weren't close for obvious reasons.

Debby said she imagined Mylaen and Jim's daughter giving birth  “and her mom not being there. I just couldn’t not try to change that. God told me, ‘You’re a match and you need to do this.’

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Giving is all Debby and Jim do together. At their Ocala home, they're raising six children. Some are Debby's biological kids, but some are fostered.

On top of that, she felt a deeper need for the organ donation.

Debby watched for years as her brother's health declined with his cystic fibrosis while he waited a double lung transplant. She offered him one of her lungs, but she wasn't a match on top of him needing two.

“When somebody needs an organ, if they don’t get it, they’re probably not going to make it. I know it’s something that you do quickly,” she said.

She passed the initial blood testing, but then had to juggle a house full of kids while working on the more complex tests, one of which involved toting a urine collection jug for 24 hours.

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After all of the testing came back in favor of the transplant, the COVID delays they had to fight with ended up having the date land two days after Jim and Debby's wedding.

Debby was tempted to postpone the wedding, but her friends pushed her to keep the date. After all, they'd already waited for 10 years and chose to cancel their wedding dates twice because their kids had announced their own engagements.

When they got to see each other, Debby could already see the difference. The circles under Mylaen’s eyes were gone.

"She looked so alive and revitalized," Debby said.

The two are planning a trip to Lake Rabun this summer.

Read more at AP News

LOOK: Here are the 50 best beach towns in America

Every beach town has its share of pluses and minuses, which got us thinking about what makes a beach town the best one to live in. To find out, Stacker consulted data from WalletHub, released June 17, 2020, that compares U.S. beach towns. Ratings are based on six categories: affordability, weather, safety, economy, education and health, and quality of life. The cities ranged in population from 10,000 to 150,000, but they had to have at least one local beach listed on TripAdvisor. Read the full methodology here. From those rankings, we selected the top 50. Readers who live in California and Florida will be unsurprised to learn that many of towns featured here are in one of those two states.

Keep reading to see if your favorite beach town made the cut.