PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- There was a very special reunion in Phoenix, as a pair of kidney transplant patients met their donors for the first time.
Thanks to a program called Paired Kidney Exchange, a donor and recipient from one family is matched with a donor and recipient from another family. On Friday, a pair of siblings, separated by thousands of miles, coming together in Phoenix to meet the donors who gave them the ultimate gift.
There were lots of hugs and tears at Banner University Medical Center, with the Rubio family from Mexico hugging the Paladkong family from Thailand. A year ago, Melissa Rubio's brother was in desperate need of a kidney. When she wasn't able to donate to him, she turned to the Two Pair Kidney Exchange for help.
"So we donate to another family, and they gave a kidney to my brother," said Rubio.
That's where Jariya and her sister come in. She was also in desperate need of a transplant, and approached her sister about the exchange program.
"No question at all," said Jariya. "She was, like, don't worry. I will do a pair exchange because I can save your life and save someone else's life too."
Both families were eventually deemed a match, and last November, Melissa's brother Jariya received the kidneys they so desperately needed.
"It was very exciting but when we met in person it was even more exciting my body was shaking," sasid Jariya.
"The opportunity to give life to someone else and that is someone that you really love is amazing, so I have no words to say how thankful I am," said Rubio.
Jariya says she's hoping to use this experience to help others like her. She and her husband are setting up a foundation that could help match recipients in Thailand with other donors, using the paired kidney exchange.