It's graduation season, which means many students are celebrating their achievements and saying goodbye to friends as they move onto the next phase of their life.
But some friends are not willing to say goodbye.
Kayla McCaffrey and Mayya Andrushchenko met during their first semester of college at South Dakota State University less than three years ago.
“It was my first semester here, and of course you know your first semester, everyone is nervous. I remember sitting right next to her in our first speech class, and its funny, we only said a few sentences to each other and we’ve been best friends every since,” said McCaffrey.
The two were inseparable throughout their freshman year living at SDSU.
“Its one of those friendships where you can't put it into words...we act like sisters and then we act like best friends and then we act like just a couple of goof balls,” said Andrushchenko.
But towards the end of their first year of friendship, things started to get serious.
“We were supposed to get a place together, but I got a little bit sick my freshman year, so that's why I moved back home,” said Andrushchenko.
“I actually didn't know about her health condition until maybe a couple months after I had met her...and I remember saying to her o, if you ever need a kidney, so you know I have one to spare,” said McCaffrey.
Andrushchenko was born in Ukraine with an under-developed kidney.
“They told my parents, you know you can either take your child to America to see what the doctors over there can do or start planning on having another kid because she's not going to live anymore,” said Andrushchenko.
So her family moved to the U.S. where Mayya underwent several surgeries.
“I've been going to Rochester every six months since I was six years old,” said Andrushchenko.
Things got worst last year when her doctor gave her some devastating news.
“When the doctors told me that I needed a new kidney, I just broke down crying,” said Andrushchenko.
“We found out that she was put on the waiting list in December, and when she called me I told her, my offer still stands, what do I need to do and she gave me the number to call. I called and they sent me a little kit in the mail, then I went to my local clinic, they drew some blood, and five days later, they told me I was a match,” said McCaffrey.
While Kayla makes it sound simple, her nurse said the odds of her actually being a perfect match were around 1 in 200,000.
“It’s got to be a straight up miracle, she was the first person to get tested, first person to get matched and everything,” said Andrushchenko.
After attending some pre-transplant classes at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, the next challenge was convincing Mayya to accept such a selfless gift.
“We walked out of that room and I just started crying and I was like, you don't have to do this, you don't,” said Andrushchenko.
“To me it’s worth it because it’s much easier to give someone life than it is to watch them suffer and possibly die…to me it’s an obvious decision. Hopefully no one else needs one now because I'm kind of all out,” said McCaffrey.
Their light-hearted approach to this whole process has helped their friendship grow even stronger.
“Forever...we'll be in the nursing home and I'll be hitting her with a cane and I'll be like Mayya, how’s my kidney,” said McCaffrey.
“She's literally a part of our family, and even if it wasn't for the situation we're in right now, she'd still be in my heart all the time, she's probably one of the greatest people I've ever met and I'm going to be truly in her debt the rest of my life,” said Andrushchenko.
The pair of 20-year-old women will head into surgery at Mayo Clinic this Tuesday. While they’re both facing some fears this weekend, they’re still holding on to a positive attitude.
“Its still one of those things you physically and mentally have to prepare yourself to be ready for it, because no matter what happens you're still going to be in fear, but I'm turning that fear into something positive. I'm going to go into the operating room with a prayer and a smile on my face and knowing that it’s going to be OK,” said Andrushchenko.
Even after surgery, other fears remain. Andrushchenko is looking at 8 to 10 weeks of recovery time in Rochester. McCaffrey will also spend another week at Mayo Clinic recovering, plus several weeks of rest before heading back to work.
If you’d like to support these women on their road to recovery, visit their give forward page.