DRACUT -- Both of her kids have birthdays on the 14th, and she started dating her husband on the 14th. With the calendar turning to 2014 last week, Debbi Stapleton knows this year is going to be lucky.
And Olga Gauthier sure hopes it's a magical year. Her fortune is riding on Stapleton's left kidney.
Gauthier, 40, of Dracut, had a kidney transplant in October 2012, but it failed five months later. Tomorrow she will undergo a second transplant after finding the match with Stapleton, who lives in Townsend.
"I can't believe it. Round two," Gauthier said on Friday, meeting with Stapleton a few days before the surgery. "The second time's the charm.
"Hopefully we can go forward, and there's no looking back," she added.
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Earlier this year, Stapleton saw on Gauthier's Facebook page that she needed another kidney transplant.
Because her sister died from cancer when she was very young, Stapleton said she has always wanted to donate something from her body, just not necessarily a kidney.
"You got to live your life with a purpose," said Stapleton, 40. "Whether it's for a person or an animal, everyone needs to do little acts of kindness.
"A lot of people were like, 'I don't think I can do that,' but now they'll know that two normal, everyday girls who have families and who work did it, and maybe people will be more apt to do it for others," she added.
Stapleton and Gauthier actually went to Lowell High School together, Stapleton has known Gauthier's brother for 20 years, and they have several mutual friends.
"It's a small world," Gauthier said.
Shannon Gouveia, also 40, donated her kidney to Gauthier on Oct. 15, 2012. Gouveia's selfless act for a stranger also earned her The Sun's inaugural 2012 "Woman of the Year" recognition.
But five months after the Oct. 15 transplant, the Dracut resident was back in the emergency room after tests showed her body was rejecting the kidney. Gauthier, who has polycystic kidney disease, learned that she would need another transplant after waiting years to get that first match.
Gauthier's doctors told her in March that lab tests showed acute kidney failure, even though she felt fine. She was hospitalized and now constantly heads to Lahey Clinic in Burlington for appointments, as doctors make sure she doesn't go into dialysis again and keep her healthy for the surgery on Monday.
Two months ago, Gauthier received an early Christmas present and found out Stapleton was a match for surgery.
"I thought I'd be waiting longer again. I didn't know if people would step forward knowing that I went through all this," Gauthier said. "It's also a lot for them to go through and then it fails."
She was "heartbroken, crushed" when the first transplant failed. Gauthier actually kept it a secret for awhile from the first donor, Gouveia, of Lowell.
"I'd do it all again, even with the same outcome," Gouveia said on Friday next to Gauthier, lending support in the days before the surgery.
"I'm so excited for Monday," Gouveia added. "I can't wait to be there next to her. It's like we're having a baby."
Gauthier and Stapleton plan to arrive at Lahey Clinic at 6 a.m., with the three- to four-hour surgery starting at 7:30 a.m.
Stapleton said she felt a bit nervous on Friday. She has undergone C-sections, wisdom-tooth and tonsil surgeries, but it was never close to this serious, she said.
"I could sit around and wait around forever, and never give it to somebody, but what good is that going to do?" Stapleton said. "What good is it to take it with you?"
For updates on the surgery and recovery, and to learn how to become a donor for others, visit "Kidney for Olga" on Facebook.
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