DALLAS — "I'm excited," said Marshall Smith, on the eve of the operation, with a tear falling down his cheek. He stopped to collect himself.
"I'm excited because I'm going to get a second chance to live and be able to be a father for my son."
Smith's kidneys stopped working two years ago. His arm holds deep scars from intense dialysis: four hours a day, three days a week since 2009.
This 50-year-old father of eight children, including five-year-old Sean, didn't have much hope until Sean got Marie Bell for a kindergarten teacher.
"I didn't think that God made people like her any more," Marshall said.
On Tuesday afternoon at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Bell gave Sean's daddy a kidney.
"I am blessed to know this family; blessed to have this child in my classroom," she said Monday afternoon. "I am blessed."
In February, Sean was late to class at Highland Village Elementary School one day because his father had been alerted to a potential kidney donor. The family thought a transplant was imminent, so they kept Sean home from school.
But it turned out that the kidney Smith was about to receive was diseased. He would have to wait.
Sean's mother wrote a note explaining the child's tardiness. When Bell read the note, she started asking questions.
"That was the first I'd known that Marshall was on dialysis and had been for two years," Bell said. Marie Bell clearly remembers that note and the sorrow she felt when she read it.
"I just boldly asked Sean's mom in an e-mail, 'What can we do?' She told me I could check with the donor program. One day after school I just called," Bell said.
She discovered that she and Smith had the same blood type. Then came further testing.
"And on February 9, our lives changed forever. We were told I was a match," Bell said.
"Everything matches!" Smith exclaimed. "I mean, every single thing she has done has come out to be a match. That's God-sent."
Bell never wavered.
"How could I look at that little boy, in his eyes every day, greet him as his caregiver, teacher, as his educator, and as a mother and know that I didn't try?" she asked.
Ever a teacher, she even taught Sean's father something. "That He is still a miracle worker, because she's my miracle," Smith said.
Family members said Bell and Smith were resting comfortably Tuesday evening following a successful transplant procedure.