Chance connection decades ago saves a life

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — 35 years ago…Jody Wilkey was packing a suitcase for a trip of a lifetime.

“June 11th, 1983. Exactly one month after my 20th birthday,” she remembered. “I had never been on a plane before but I had saved money for five years.”

She was flying to Spain and filling a journal with every little detail. She read from them.

“There’s this cute girl who keeps smiling at me.”

The teenager wanted to borrow paper.

“The girl wrote me a note and now we’re passing it back and forth. I’m thrilled. Her name is Kari Kielblock and she’s from Jackson, Minnesota.”

The note writing went on for hours until they landed.     

“We finally get to hug and ‘Oh hi! It’s so nice to meet you,’ and she introduced me to her parents who are the cutest people.”

Wilkey ended up spending the day with the Kielblocks. Jody and Kari kept in touch a few years after that but eventually lost contact.

“She got married. I got married and we didn’t know each other’s last names.”

But Wilkey never forgot her dream trip and her friend from the plane. Last summer, she wrote about it on Facebook.

“I thought I should look for her and see if she’s on here and tag her in this post.”

Kari Kielblock, now Huseth, did see the post and the two started writing again just like all those years ago in the sky. Messages led to phone calls until one that changed everything.

“I don’t even remember how it came up but she started talking about her health issues,” said Wilkey.

Huseth was dying. She needed a liver transplant and a living donor was her best hope. Wilkey told her she wanted to help and asked what she could do. She was ready to pack her bags again.

“I love her and I don’t want her to die. If this is what I have to do then ok. I never felt so sure about anything in my life.”

The two long lost friends were reunited during their final testing at the Mayo Clinic. Wilkey was a perfect match and surgery was a go.

Huseth said, “I’m going to have more time with my 16 grandbabies and my husband because my 16th grandson was just born.”

“She’s got a lot to live for. A lot. So yeah it just felt like the right thing to do.”

Surgery was Monday. Both women are recovering just fine.

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