CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – On April 20, Tom Foliano gave his hand in marriage to Cheryl Miller, a secretary at Summit Behavioral Health. The wedding day came just a few months shy of the one-year anniversary of when Cheryl gave Tom something equally meaningful – her kidney – in a life-saving living organ donation.
In 2017, the couple connected on a popular online dating site and began messaging and calling each other frequently before meeting up in person for their first date.
On the second date, Tom decided to reveal some details about himself he feared would diminish Cheryl’s interest in continuing to date.
“He said, ‘I have to tell you something … you might never want to see me again.’,” she recalled.
Cheryl was unphased by Tom’s disclosure he was on dialysis because his kidneys were failing.
“I said, ‘How shallow do you think I am?’”
The two continued dating and a year later, attended a Kidney Foundation of Central PA dinner. It was there Cheryl decided she would donate one of her kidneys – to Tom, if they were a match or to someone else if they weren’t so Tom would be moved higher on the transplant list.
After talking with Tom’s nephrologist – a doctor who specializes in conditions affecting the kidneys – the couple went through a series of tests that took eight hours to complete.
“And then, the waiting begins,” remarked Cheryl.
When she received the call she and her boyfriend were a match and dialed Tom to inform him of the news, the two couldn’t contain their emotions.
“We were both crying on the phone because we were so happy.”
Cheryl said her family was supportive yet concerned.
“I told my dad, ‘There’s a spare kidney in there. You really don’t need two – you found that out!’”
Her father had developed a kidney infection as a teen and, at the time, doctors were convinced he only had a 50-percent chance of surviving with only one kidney. He’ll soon be 88.
On July 5, 2018, the couple had their surgeries. While Tom’s recovery took a bit longer than Cheryl’s, today, they both feel good and are grateful they were a match on more than one level.
“I don’t know how that happened. It is remarkable – we’re truly blessed,” Cheryl said.
While Cheryl does agree she and Tom share a special circumstance, she brushes off the idea her gift of life is anything more than a basic act of love.
“It makes me happy, but to me, it’s not a big deal – it’s just something you do for somebody you love.”
Summit Health is a non-profit network of hospitals and physician practices dedicated to building a healthier community.
As Franklin County's leading healthcare provider, Summit Health offers family care, specialists, lab and imaging services, a fitness center, urgent care centers, and two award-winning hospitals.