JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A First Coast News woman was told she had eight to 10 years to live.
Yet 23 years later, Tammy Patterson is still going strong, despite immeasurable odds.
"We don't take anything for granted," Tammy said. "Ever."
Waiting for a new kidney since 2005, Tammy was one of more than 100 "status 1" kidney transplant candidates at Shands Jacksonville forced off the list when the kidney transplant center suddenly closed in January of 2011.
After being accepted into the Mayo Clinic's transplant program and being put back on the wait list, Tammy waited and waited.
Finally, three months ago, they got the call that saved Tammy's life.
"With this gift we've received now, a mother, my wife, my best friend now has a chance to live another 10, 15, 20 years," Hugh said.
Hugh has been by Tammy's side for 23 years of doctors and tests, after she was diagnosed on their first wedding anniversary.
"I keep going back to what that first doctor that diagnosed us said that eight to 10 years to live, never have children," Hugh said.
They're now almost to their 25th wedding anniversary, with one son in college and another heading there next year.
It hasn't been an easy road. Hugh works three jobs to keep up with the medical bills, and earlier this year, they downsized into a smaller home.
But with a new kidney and a chance to finish their life together, none of that matters.
"It's just an amazing journey that we've been on," Hugh said.
After the transplant, Tammy's kidney was took a while to fully function and then she contracted MRSA.
Finally over that, it was her turn to save her husband's life.
Feeling overwhelmed with Tammy's recovery, the bills piling up and his multiple jobs, Hugh found himself praying for one day to relax.
"I got my 24 hours but it was because we found out I have a blood clot in my leg," Hugh said. "I had to be taken off my feet and do nothing for the next 24 hours."
Tammy's background as a nurse helped them catch the blood clot in time.
Now for Tammy and Hugh, who call themselves quite a pair with his cane and her walker, a simple evening of peanut butter sandwiches is perfection.
"I think people who go through difficulties, I think they learn to appreciate the small things," Tammy said.
When she gets her strength back, Tammy is excited to volunteer with new dialysis patients.
After years of dialysis, she knows how scary it can be, especially the first time, and is looking forward to giving back.
First Coast News