A routine coffee stop at a Washington Starbucks culminated with an Army veteran giving his kidney to another Army veteran he’d never met.
Vince Villano, 41, regularly frequented the Starbucks in DuPont, Washington.
His regular barista, Nicole McNeil, knew Villano’s coffee order by heart, and was accustomed to his “Eeyore” demeanor.
“He kind of seemed like an Eeyore, just a little bit grouchy, a little bit of a sad sack all the time,” McNeil told KIRO-TV.
About a year ago, in January 2018, McNeil noticed that Villano looked even more glum than usual, and she asked him why.
“He said, ‘It would take a long time to tell ya.’ I had the time that day, I took it,” McNeil recalled.
She learned that the Army veteran was battling polycystic kidney disease, and needed a transplant.
McNeil couldn’t shake the heartbreaking news, and told her husband, Justin McNeil, about Villano’s situation.
Without knowing anything about the man, Justin McNeil offered up his kidney.
“In that moment, I hear the story (and I think,) ‘I should do this. I should step up,’” Justin told Inside Edition.
The two men met one another, and learned they both were U.S. Army veterans. They felt an instant bond, a trust in one another that gave way to a natural, life-giving friendship.
Justin turned out to be a perfect match for Villano, and the two spent the better part of 2018 preparing for the transplant surgery.
On Dec. 26, 2018, Villano received his new kidney at the University of Washington Medical Center.
“I think it a wonderful demonstration of what humanity is capable of,” Dr. Carrie Minnelli, who performed the surgery, told Inside Edition.
Villano has now entered 2019 with fresh hope for renewed life.
“It was the only Christmas present I needed,” Villano said.
Justin believes the whole ordeal was meant to be: “God puts a lot of people in different places and everyone has the capacity to give something,” he said.
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