Madison Ricci is a 19-year-old who was diagnosed with Lupus at the age of 12. Lupus is a rare disease in which the body’s immune system begins attacking its own organs. The condition can manifest in a variety of ways and affect a wide range of tissues. In Madison’s case, her liver, spleen, and platelets were most severely affected.
Unfortunately, in January of 2017, a rise in Madison’s liver enzymes caused doctors concern. She was found to be suffering from Autoimmune Hepatitis and liver cirrhosis which results in the loss of cells as well as permanent scarring. It was at this time that Madison was added to the list for a liver transplant.
Sadly, it wasn’t long until things got more serious. In March of 2018, during her spring break of her freshman year of college, Madison was told that her best shot of survival would be to find a living donor willing to give her a liver.
Desperate to find someone, her parents created a Facebook page to begin the search. It was a matter of life or death.
That’s when Jaelin Highsmith comes into the story.
Jaelin Highsmith happened to come across the family’s post on Facebook. While he had never met Madison, his best friend was family friends with her family. He knew he had to do something and decided to see if he could potentially be a match. The chances he would be? Only 5-10%.
After 4 months of testing at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, Jaelin was officially found to be eligible.
The 22.5 hour surgery was scheduled for December of 2018. Before and after the successful procedure, Madison and Jaelin stayed in touch through text message.
The crazy thing? The two had never met each other. Thankfully, Good Morning America arranged a meeting.
The meeting was a complete surprise for Madison who exclaimed through tears, “I’m speechless. Thank you.”
Jaelin on the meeting said that the best way to describe it was “unreal.” The two have continued to keep in touch. Jaelin explains that any time he thinks of his own pain, he focuses instead on Madison’s experience. He’s glad to have helped her on her journey.
To read more about Madison and Jaelin’s story click here.