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DALLAS This time last year, a Flower Mound man was battling diabetes that caused his kidneys to fail. With no living relatives that could help, Shannon Hamilton was in trouble.

It normally takes three to five years for doctors to find a suitable donor.

But when Hamilton finally stopped keeping his dialysis a secret, he was able to find his perfect match in one month, and that donor was literally closer to the recipient than anyone could have imagined.

He's flat on his back at Baylor University Medical Center, but Shannon Hamilton couldn't be feeling better. It was a blessing to be put on the transplant list... a blessing to have a living donor, he said.

It was Hamilton's neighbor, Tony Bridwell, who graciously volunteered to see if his kidney was a match.

Why shouldn't I? Bridwell said. I mean, come on... it's an easy decision, and at this point we just left it in God's hands. If I wasn't a match no big deal.

As it turned out, Bridwell was a perfect match, drastically reducing Hamilton's possibility of kidney rejection.

Both of the patient's parents died from kidney failure, and Shannon feared the same fate.

It's really the perfect Thanksgiving story, said Dr. Goran Klintmalm, Baylor's director of transplant services. He said the odds of a neighbor having the exact same blood type and same tissue type are quite rare.

I would say you should buy Lotto tickets, Dr. Klintmalm joked. It's so unlikely I can't give you number on it, but maybe like one in 50 million.

Hamilton said it's no coincidence his wife was a match, but his neighbor was an even better match in more ways than one.

Then we discussed who's going to take care of her when she's going to take care of me, so it all fell into place, Hamilton said.

Nearly two long years of painful dialysis is now over, and this transplant recipient refuses to blame it on blind luck.

No, not luck... it's part of the plan, Hamilton said.

It's God saying, 'Serve others wholeheartedly,' and Shannon is my friend. He's my neighbor and he needed help, added Bridwell.

Their story gives new meaning to what it means to be a good neighbor.

Hamilton and Bridwell have been neighbors for eight years. The transplant surgery was more than a week ago, and the two men were healthy enough to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together at home.

Doctors say Hamilton's new kidney is doing well and showing no signs of rejection.

E-mail ddenmon@wfaa.com

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