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Family overcomes incredible odds after father survives double lung and kidney transplants

Posted at 7:51 AM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 10:24:23-04

The story of Ricky Byington is one of love, survival, setbacks, and miracles.

Brenda Byington first met Ricky when she was his nurse, treating him for cystic fibrosis.

"I first started taking care of him about probably about 16 years ago," she shares.

But Brenda admits, dating a patient was not an option. But when Ricky underwent a double lung transplant, he was no longer a patient. The relationship grew into marriage.

She recalls, "I first met him when I was a brand-new nurse, and he was a CF patient, and he was so sick. But no matter how sick he was he could always just smile and laugh, and he just was so, he just had this like positive energy about him. He was such a happy person."

When Ricky got a double lung transplant, he got the most out of life. Ricky exclaims, "As soon as I got my transplant. I think one of the first things I did was jump out of a plane!"

Quite a feat for a young man who always thought he would die young.

Brenda notes, "From the beginning, when he was a baby, he was told he wasn't going to live past 18. So he grew up believing 'I'm going to be dead before I'm an adult.'"

The Byingtons were told they probably could not have children. But they were blessed with what they call three miracles: twin daughters, and a son. "They're very special. They're very special and we, we went through IVF, to get them," says Brenda.

"We're blessed. We're so blessed," adds Ricky.

The couple decided early on that their first born would be named Story.

"With our first baby, he had me sign a note that says 'no matter if our baby was a boy or girl, it's going to be Story.' With me being his nurse, and his double-lung transplant, we had such a wonderful story." explains Brenda.

It's a story Ricky is reminded of daily. He almost always wears a special bracelet he got from the relative of the man whose lungs are now in his chest.

"My lung donor. Angel Bob, you know. He's in heaven. He's always watching us," said Ricky.

About a year and a half ago, there was a major setback. Heavy medications took their toll, and Ricky's kidneys failed. He says through it all, his wife continued to be his angel.

"Last year I couldn't walk. I couldn't lift our daughter, who has cerebral palsy, and she had to take on the role of everybody in this house, and it's amazing how she does it with a smile. She never complains," he reveals.

But Brenda points out, "I complain a little bit."

Ricky quickly says, "Not to me." They both laugh.

"She's truly an amazing person. She's a true Angel," says Ricky.

While Ricky was on dialysis, the couple prayed for a new kidney.

"We were scared. One of the hardest things when it comes to kidney donation is to find a match."

But all along, Brenda had a feeling she would be a match for her husband. She was right.

"It was pretty incredible when they told us that I was his match."

"She told me on my birthday!" shares Rick.

Brenda notes, "We've been doing dialysis at home for the last almost a year and a half."

"It's such a good step for us to be able to not take that time every day. More time that we can spend with our children and more time just playing and being together. That's really what that, that's just what we want for our family, we just want to be together. So, this will be very exciting for us."

The couple underwent surgery July 15. It was a success. Ricky's kidneys started working right away.

Undergoing a double lung transplant and kidney transplant means overcoming incredible odds.

But the Byingtons' are looking forward to the future and say they will take one day at a time.

For others facing serious health challenges, this is advice from Ricky Byington.

"You just keep on fighting."

So, the love story that began with a very sick young man and a dedicated nurse has proven to be the perfect prescription for love. Ricky admits, "We know this won't be our last challenge. We know there will be more, more things ahead. But we're going take this one day at a time, one diagnosis at a time. But we'll do whatever it takes to keep on going and to keep our family strong."

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