Don Bedwell got to know Barbara Rector by regularly stopping at the restaurant where she works.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- A waitress's habit of exchanging friendly small talk with her customers and an Indiana man's preference for Chinese takeout food combined to produce a lifesaving experience.
Waitress Barbara Rector became the recipient of a kidney donated by Don Bedwell, a customer who regularly stops by the Chinese restaurant where she works on his weekly commute from a Cleveland engineering job to his Columbia City, Ind., home.
"He's an angel," Rector, 57, said of Bedwell early last week as both recovered from the transplant operation at the Cleveland Clinic.
Bedwell and his wife, Shari, give credit to God for the way things worked out.
Why else would Bedwell have gotten a six-month job that stretched into years and allowed him to meet Rector, and why else would his kidney match hers, they said.
Two years ago, Rector started working at Manchu Wok at the Ohio Turnpike plaza in Amherst, about 30 miles west of Cleveland. Bedwell stops at the restaurant every Friday on his way home to Indiana from his job.
Gradually the two began exchanging small talk when Bedwell would order his takeout lunch, and they began to find out more about each other.
How it came together
Just before Thanksgiving, Bedwell asked Rector how she was doing. She told him she wasn't doing very well. She was going to have to quit work and start dialysis because her diabetes was getting worse. Doctors told her she would need a kidney transplant.
"Well, I'll give you one," Bedwell said, writing his name, address and phone number on the back of a napkin, not wanting to see her cry.
"When things get ready, if this is really what you want to do, give me a call," he said.
In January, Rector's daughter-in-law called Bedwell and gave him all the donor information, but Rector and her family didn't think much more about it.
A few weeks later, Rector's daughter-in-law found out that she was a match and could give Rector her kidney. But in May, doctors discovered blood in the daughter-in-law's urine and decided that they couldn't risk giving Rector a kidney that might be flawed.
"I knew it was all too good to be true," Rector told her son and daughter-in-law, Al and Missy Rector.
Al Rector decided to take action himself and volunteered to donate one of his kidneys to someone else in a program called paired donation. If the person he gave his kidney to had a family member who matched his mother, everyone would win.
In June, Rector got the unexpected news that Bedwell had gone through with the testing and had decided to give a kidney to anyone who needed it.
His kidney turned out to be a match.
The operation was performed Monday at the Cleveland Clinic, and Rector's family said the new kidney is working perfectly.
"There's not enough good words to say about those people," Al Rector said of the Indiana couple.
"He gave her life," Missy Rector said of Bedwell.
After the operation, Bedwell joked about how he needed to lose a few pounds anyway.
"It's almost been fun," he said, a grimace giving him away.
Both Bedwell and Rector planned to get back to their regular schedules soon, with Rector once again dishing up Bedwell's takeout lunch as he makes his way home to Indiana.