CALUMET CITY, Ill. (WGN) - The well-known wedding vow “in sickness and in health” is a real-life promise for an Illinois couple who, after three years together, just learned something new that could save one of their lives – against incredible odds they are compatible for a kidney transplant.
Viola and Marques Johnson are already sharing their lives, and soon they’ll be sharing a lot more.
“I asked her for her phone number, and she gave me the phone number and was like, ‘call me tomorrow,’ so I was like, ‘why do I have to call you tomorrow? Haha. We can’t talk today?” Marques said.
Whether they’re playing games or attending them, they almost always wear matching shirts.
But the good times hit a bump when Marques went to the doctor for a routine checkup and left with a troubling diagnosis.
“They tell me that my kidneys are failing. This may not be a relationship that you want to get into with a sick person," Marques said.
“I’m like, ‘no, we’re going to beat this. Don’t even worry about this. We got this,'" Viola said.
Soon Marques was bloated, exhausted, and resigned to the fact that he might not make it. He gained weight and retained fluid, and had to leave his job as a newspaper writer.
“All of a sudden, my health took a drastic change, to where I couldn’t even swallow air without throwing up," Marques said. “It was almost feeling like I was drowning when I was talking.”
Viola is a registered nurse, and saw the situation getting worse.
“I knew that it was bad. Fluid could fill up in his lungs, he could be laying down and just stop breathing. He wasn’t moving any fluid,” Viola said.
Marques was on dialysis for nine hours a day. He didn’t want to ask relatives to donate a kidney.
“It’s not an easy thing for you to ask your brothers or family member to get tested to give you a kidney, it’s not like asking to borrow ten dollars. So, I just refused to ask anybody, and I was just like, ‘well, I’ll live the rest of my life on dialysis – it is what it is,'" Marques said.
Viola insisted she would get tested, even though doctors told them that of the more than 10,000 kidney transplants each year, fewer than one percent were between unrelated living people. Even fewer between actual spouses.
Viola’s test results came back as she was getting her nails done.
“She called and said, ‘You’re the match. You’re a perfect match!’ I just started screaming and all the nail techs looked around and were like, ‘what’s wrong?’ I was like ‘I’m the match! I’m the match!” Viola said.
“For my wife to be the match, that’s really rare,” Marques said.
Kidney failure was no match for this match.
“I tell him, we were destined to be. God knows, everybody has a purpose, and everybody may not realize, but my purpose was actually to save his life," Viola said.
The surgery is set for this Thursday at the University of Illinois College Medical Center. They say once they get out of surgery, they will have plenty of help as both of them recover over the next few weeks.