Youngstown residents, recipients of life-saving organ transplants, marry
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
When LaTanya Foster and Marvin Johnson Sr. were married Sunday, they shared more than undying love – each had received life-saving organ transplants – LaTanya a kidney from a live donor and Marvin a heart.
“We definitely understand each other better because of the transplants. To have that connection and level of understanding of your mate is priceless,” said LaTanya in a joint interview Thursday with her soon-to-be husband.
The ceremony was conducted by the Rev. Raymond Mason before a packed Heavenly Place Church of God in Christ sanctuary in Youngstown.
During the pre-wedding interview, LaTanya and Marvin talked about how they became reacquainted – through an online dating site – and their feelings for each other.
“This is a dream come true, meeting the man of my dreams. It is the greatest day of my life after my transplant,” said LaTanya, 44.
“It would have had to be someone very special for me to even think about getting married again, and then Tanya came along,” said Marvin, 50, with a smile.
They knew each other in elementary school and then Marvin, who attended East High School and graduated in 1987 from Campbell Memorial High School, left the area for some 20 years living in Florida, West Virginia and Maryland before returning to Youngstown.
Suffering from vascular coronary disease, he received his new heart on Dec. 7, 2007, at the Cleveland Clinic.
LaTanya, who had been on dialysis for five years and had about given up hope of ever receiving a kidney and living a normal life when what she describes as a miracle occurred.
LaTanya, a 1992 graduate of East High School and a former Warren Delphi employee, was visiting a church in Pennsylvania when a young woman, Christy McDonnell Crocker, saw her and out of the blue offered to donate her kidney.
Crocker, who was at Sunday’s ceremony with her husband, Dwight, himself a kidney recipient on his wedding day, had been on dialysis for five years, just as had LaTanya.
“Dwight’s experience was my inspiration, and knowing Dwight was all right with it helped me make my decision. I knew the Lord had orchestrated the whole thing. I was at peace,” she said.
“It was wonderful to see her dream come true,” Christy said of LaTanya’s wedding.
Christy and LaTanya still get together on-or-about the anniversary date of LaTanya’s transplant, which she received March 16, 2009 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).
“It was divine intervention,” said LaTanya’s brother, Willie Foster of Youngstown. “The donor was a complete stranger, and her kidney was a perfect match,” he said.