By Martha Hewett @martha_hewett
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Videographer / director: Alexis Duran
Producer: Martha Hewett, James Thorne
Editor: James Thorne
22-year-old Cheyenne HanLee, from Santa Ana, CA, met Gavin on Tinder after he ‘super-starred’ her.
Just over two years later, he has saved her life by donating his kidney to her.
Cheyenne told Barcroft TV: “I never thought I would have found Gavin through this dating app, and now we are here and he’s giving me his kidney – it’s kind of crazy.”
Gavin added: “She had a nice smile and talked a lot, which made it easy.”
When Cheyenne and Gavin first started talking, Cheyenne was in denial over how sick she was.
She explained: “When I first got Tinder, I didn’t believe that I was sick because my illness is invisible. No one else, including myself, could see that I was sick but I could feel it.
Cheyenne and Gavin had been together for seven months when she collapsed whilst out with friends during her first year of attending college in San Diego.
Gavin then took her to the hospital to have her bloods taken.
Cheyenne was told she was surviving on 2% kidney function, which was dangerously low.
“Most people don’t live to that point, I would have died in a few days if I didn’t go to the hospital when I did,” Cheyenne explained.
Gavin added: “When I took her for the blood test, the doctor told us to come straight to the emergency room, that’s when I found out how bad it was."
Cheyenne didn’t believe it when she was first diagnosed with kidney failure, despite having had the symptoms for years.
She said: “I was healthy and young, I thought I was invincible.”
After being diagnosed, Cheyenne soon started dialysis, which meant for ten hours every night – up until her transplant – she had to hook herself up to her peritoneal dialysis machine to remove toxins from her body.
The machine essentially acted as her kidneys.
She said: “I was really depressed and didn’t do anything every single day. Haemodialysis made me so exhausted, I wouldn’t be able to function afterwards.
"After I started peritoneal dialysis, I felt a little better and sought out a support group, learning about kidney disease has helped me a lot."
Cheyenne was told she needed a transplant very soon, and that was when Gavin stepped in.
He explained: “I already knew I wanted to get tested at that point, but I couldn’t really do anything for a while because there’s a process to get on the transplant list."
Cheyenne added: “I was really sick; we didn’t talk about the transplant – I just thought I was going to die.”
Once Cheyenne was more stable, Gavin went through the process of being tested and realised he was a match for Cheyenne.
Cheyenne at first didn’t want Gavin to donate but her condition wasn’t getting any better and she had little luck with other potential donors.
And so they agreed that Gavin would donate his kidney.
Gavin said: “When people ask the question of why I’m doing this, I tell them it’s not a question of why, but rather, how can I not?
“I don’t think I’m special, I think anybody in my position would do the same thing.”
Cheyenne disagrees: “I don’t think so, I think he’s special.”
On October 24th 2018, Cheyenne and Gavin travelled to the Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego for the kidney transplant, which was a success.
“Regular 22-year-olds aren’t supposed to suffer like she has – I’ll do anything to make it a little better for her,” Gavin said.
After the successful transplant, Cheyenne told Barcroft: “I can’t put into words how it feels to have Gavin’s kidney. He literally saved my life.”
Although the transplant was a huge event in their relationship, Cheyenne and Gavin don’t think it’ll affect them as a couple.
Gavin said: “Beforehand, if she had broken up with me, I’d still do it. If she breaks up with me after, that will still be fine.
“It’s not about the relationship – it’s about giving her a good life and being healthy and happy.”
Cheyenne added: “I can’t put into words how grateful I am to him. It’s a big life change, I went from being tired doing laundry to how I am now – it’s not normal, but it’s as normal as I’ll get.
“I’m really happy, I haven’t done dialysis in 21 days and I don’t need to be on life support anymore, all because of him.”