Photo: Courtesy Match via Instagram
Think about the amount of time it takes to meet someone, date them, fall in love, and get married. Probably a few months at least — maybe even a few years. Now, imagine that you meet someone, go on a few casual dates, and then he or she needs something more than just your Friday night dinner accompaniment: one of your kidneys! That's exactly what happened to Natalie Russo and Mike Frias, a couple living in Santa Barbara.
Natalie Russo, a fitness instructor, and Mike Frias, an analyst, both 34, met on the dating website Match in 2014. According to People, after a few dates over the course of two weeks, Russo, a Michigan native, had to be rushed to the hospital for the unthinkable — kidney failure. But little did she know that this new man in her life would be THE ticket to her health (and happiness).
Thinking her new beau (of only four in-person dates) wouldn't hang around while she was in the hospital, Russo prepared for the worst. Her doubts about this new guy in her life, however, were completely wrong, as Frias not only helped her search for a donor, but also turned out to be the perfect kidney match for his new girlfriend. So, he made the ultimate sacrifice: decided to donate his kidney to the woman he had just met.
"I went to the doctor for a routine checkup and they did a blood test to see how my kidneys were doing. They called me the same night saying I needed to go to the ER because my blood work came back toxic," she shared exclusively with People, noting that after only a few dates, she had doubts that Frias would still be interested in her, considering her serious diagnosis. "I didn't know if [Mike] was going to stick around, we were really just starting to get to know each other. He was the only guy I was seeing at the time, so I called him and said, 'I'm in the hospital, I'm going to start dialysis and I need a transplant.'"
And just like that, her reservations about his intentions were lifted. Frias hurried to the hospital to be with his new girlfriend. "My initial reaction was that I needed to make arrangements for my dog so that I could be in the hospital with her," he lovingly noted.
The next few months consisted of Frias sitting bedside with his girlfriend, helping her find a donor. He worked his analyst job out of the hospital and even slept there, as he wanted to be by Russo's side 24/7. "Those days we talked morning and night and we shared ourselves," he said.
Talks grew into "I love yous" and after one of her surgeries, Russo realized that Frias was absolutely the man of her dreams — and that she wanted it to be forever. "When I came out [of surgery] I had this intense feeling to ask this amazing person that is staying by my side (that didn't run for the hills and not only gives me the purest love I have ever known but also makes me feel that same love for him) to marry me," she shared on their wedding website. "When I got back to the my room, Mike was doing some abs on the floor lol. I told him I had something to ask... He jumped up and I said nervously "will you marry me?" Without hesitation he said "yes" and gave me a sweaty kiss:-). " Just a short few days later, Frias came back with a ring and made it official — with one of the hospital nurses taping the whole event.
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After months of searching, the couple couldn't find a kidney match for Russo, and so her husband-to-be decided to see if he was a match. "I would have done anything for her," Frias said about his choice to test his kidney. "We met at the right time, and that's just a testament that it was meant to be." And as fate would have it — he was a match! On March 21, 2016, the couple went under the knife and Frias successfully gave his kidney to Russo — only a few short months before their wedding. Now if that isn't a testament to the fact that everything happens for a reason, we're not sure what is.
"We wouldn't have gone on this journey together if we both weren't worth it to each other," Russo explained. "We really came together during this difficult time, our relationship bloomed and I now know we can get through anything together."
The two tied the knot on June 26, 2016 in an outdoor ceremony in Santa Barbara. Due to medical bills, they weren't able to go on a honeymoon right away, however, the dating website that linked them together, Match, generously helped fix that issue and fully funded a honeymoon trip to Fiji! Much deserved; congrats newlyweds — your story is truly a heartwarming test of "in sickness and in health."
Happy Birthday to my beautiful fiancé @danceintomydream ! 2 month post #kidney #transplant #surgery... You look amazing as always.. I am so happy we get to share another #100 birthdays together...I hope you had a great day. Exactly ONE month until I make you Mrs. Frias... I love you! #mylove #personaltrainer #hudsonville #puremichigan #puremittigan ##birthday #616 #friaswedding2016 @nationalkidneyfoundation #calitomichigan
Happy Anniversary to my beautiful fiancé @danceintomydream ! Its been a challenging ...up and down 2 years and thers no one else I'd rather share the past 2 years and the rest of my life with... I love you! #happilystuck #anniversary #myforever #puremichigan #puremittigan @michiganders #hudsonville #grateful #steak #chophouse #findining #616
Happy Friday to all.. For #Christmas #2015 I made the decision to give my fiance @danceintomydream a gift that would show her how much she means to me...and that is #LIFE!...because she is my life! I love this woman! Today 01/15...is #goodfriday because today I have been informed after my preliminary blood test from #MichiganStateLabs that I am A MATCH to be Natalie's kidney donor!!!!🎉🎁❿ￏ We are so happy to recieve this news today to start our weekend. This news brings us a step closer in starting a family..we are looking forward to have our #minimis terrorizing our #pitbull #boxer #weimaraner and everything else in our life..lol God willin' we are hopeful and w/out any delays we will have our sugery by the of next month. I wanted to share this GREAT news with everyone, to all our friends and family from cali to #michigan. Please do continue to pray for us to no complications or delays in our process. This is perfect timing also because our #anniversary is around the corner.. I wonder if this counts as an anniversary gift too @danceintomydream ?😉...I want to thank everyone in our efforts to campaign for a kidney... I encourage everyone to still get tested..its the most priceless and selfless gift you can give to someone..the gift of life! Have a great weekend everyone 🍻..to all my MI peeps be careful driving in the snow..to my cali peeps try to stay dry.. #F2HN #wearetrulymeant2be #shellalwayshaveapartofme #literally #mylove #myfamily #cali2michigan #puremichigan #puremittigan @michiganders #donatelife @kidneydiseaseawareness #hudsonville #grandrapids #grandrapidsmi #anniversarygift
Our first #Thanksgiving in #michigan.. I love this woman @danceintomydream ...she is EVERYTHING I've been searching for.. I THANK God I found her... #blessed #mylove #family #yeezy #sneakerheadinlove #puremichigan #hudsonville #michigan #grandrapids #whatdiet #itsabouttogodown #iloveher #friascasa #friascompound