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The perfect match: North Texas woman donating kidney to help save best friend’s life

"Friendships are so necessary. Good quality friendships," Tiffani Martin said. "I really hope people see it and just really gives them hope."

DALLAS — Tiffani Martin is already a social media influencer of sorts, imploring the Black community to pay better attention to the prevalence of diabetes that has brought her so many health challenges.  

Now, one very good friend has stepped up to help her keep that message, and herself, alive.

I met Tiffani and her friend, Lisa Rachelle Winkley, at the Ervay Apartments, the historic converted space that once served as the U.S. Courthouse in Dallas.

"OK Tiffani we're smiling, look at me," Lisa said to her friend.  

"Are we doing a selfie," Tiffani asked. "You're not supposed to take pictures of blind people without their consent," she joked.

"I just told you," Lisa laughed.

"No means no," Tiffani said as Lisa laughed. "No means no."

Diabetic retinopathy robbed Tiffani of her sight. Diabetes also led to a pancreas transplant and a kidney transplant. But the kidney, from a deceased donor, is failing now too.

"I did not know her story until we'd been friends for quite a while," Lisa said of their friendship going on about six years now.

They were just girlfriends, part of a four-woman book club, when Lisa secretly decided to get tested.

"I didn't think that hard about it. I really didn't," she admitted.

And, like the ending to a good novel, she was a perfect match.

"If I was in the same position I would want someone to help me," Lisa said. "There's no way I could continue to walk along in life, hang out with my friend, chat with her every day, knowing that I have something that she could use."

"And my kidneys are almost identical," she said doctors told her. "Which is really amazing. That just makes it more reassuring to give one away. Because I'm not gonna give my friend no junk," she said as they both laughed.

The transplant happens next week at Baylor Scott and White Health, where the experts know the average wait time for a donor kidney can take five years or more. 

An estimated 5,000 people die each year in the U.S. without ever getting that chance.

Which makes Lisa's gift all that more amazing to Tiffani.

"It's mind-blowing," she said. "You just don't meet people like this at all."

Or often meet people ready to name the donor kidney.

"We thought about Kidney Spears," Tiffani said. "That was one!"

"We are going to name them after famous movie characters. Dionne and Cher from 'Clueless,'" Lisa said. "The one that I am giving her is going to be Cher since I am now "sharing" my kidney. And then I will keep Dionne," she laughed.

"Tell him about your playlist," Tiffani said. 

Yes, they even have a kidney playlist for their hospital stay featuring artists like Selena Gomez, Stevie Wonder and Tina Turner who have also had kidney transplants.

"Maybe we also need to have like a kidney handshake that we make up," Lisa said about their post surgery routine, with rooms they plan to decorate in a "Hello Kidney" theme.  

Lisa, by the way, is a professional event planner.

So really, this isn't a story about kidney transplants. It's about something else.

"Friendships are so necessary. Good quality friendships," Tiffani said. "Just to have that anchor. I really hope people see it and just really gives them hope."

Hope from someone who also knows the art of a good selfie.

"Now do your pucker lips because I just did that and it looked good," Lisa laughed as she got Tiffani to pose for one more selfie. "Now we have some decent pictures Tiffani!"

Decent pictures... and one very decent friend.

The transplant is scheduled for next Tuesday at Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas.