Welcome to Hero of the Week, where each week we celebrate the most extraordinary stories of heroism from all over the world. From putting another life before their own to making someone else’s dreams come true, these are ordinary people who are making the world a better place.

Our Starbucks fix is an important part of our morning routine. We go the same time each morning and many of us begin to develop friendships with our regular barista. They remember our names, how we like our coffee, and maybe also will notice when something is just not quite right.

Such was the case when Vince Villano visited his local Starbucks one morning and his usual barista Nicole McNeil, noticed he didn’t seem quite himself.

She took a moment to sit him down and ask him what was going on, and how she could help, says KIRO.

Well, Vince told her his story. He told her what was going on, and how she could help, and it began a journey that will link the two people together forever: that barista McNeil’s husband ended up donating a kidney to Villano, and saved his life!

Now, we often joke that our morning coffee is a life saver. But this is a whole other ball game.

This all happened nearly two years ago, in January of 2017.  During that sit-down talk, Villano told McNeil that he was suffering from polcystic kidney disease, and his prognosis was not great without a kidney transplant. He was not doing great at the time. In fact, his kidneys were onlyfunctioning at four percent at where they should be.

McNeil’s heart broke for Villano, who was a veteran and about to start needing dialysis, and when she left work that day, she went home and told her husband Justin, 36, about what her customer had shared with her.

Her husband’s response was inspirational as it was immediate.  “‘I’ve got a kidney, you know, we could do this. I think I’m willing to do that.’ It didn’t take long,'” he told KIRO.

“Before he knew anything else about the man, that was his first thought,” McNeil said in a video of the story published by Starbucks. Justin is also a veteran and he and Villano were, miraculously a match, and made plans for the donation.

The donation was a success and now the McNeils and Villano are close friends. “In general, having them as friends, family, I wouldn’t want it to not be this way. I can’t imagine not having them in my life,” Villano told KIRO.

Both Villano and Justin recently had their surgery, according to an update posted by Starbucks: “The doctors told [McNeil] the kidney Justin McNeil donated to Villano looks great, and a post-surgery ultrasound confirmed it is functioning well.”

You can read more about Villano’s incredible story here.

We don’t all encounter people who need vital organs and then end up married to a perfect match who is willing to donate. That’s a miracle by any stretch. But we can all help someone who needs our help. And taking the time to listen and be there is the very first step toward making a very real, very important difference.



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