FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. —In 2004, Jesse Mesa was diagnosed with Lupus and told she had five years to live. By 2018, she beat those odds and a bout of thyroid cancer. But she was told she needed a new kidney if she wanted to see her two young sons graduate, get married and have children one day.
After missing out on one donor due to health complications and putting her search on pause to help her boyfriend recover from a heart attack, Mesa, a dispatcher for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, sent out an email to the entire staff of 5,000 this year as a last-ditch effort.
In it she asked for a “kidney brother or sister” who might consider helping her.
Amber Savoie —a fellow dispatcher who barely knew Mesa —miraculously answered the call within an hour.
On Dec. 12 Mesa received her very first present of the holiday season —one she has been wanting for over a decade. “It’s the epitome of Christmas,” Mesa, 40, said on Tuesday.
The stirring story was recently highlighted by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office in a short documentary titled “The Ultimate Gift.”
Savoie, who remains nonchalant about her benevolence, admitted that she didn’t have much of a relationship with Mesa before she decided to give her such a momentous gift.
Savoie said she works the night dispatch shift at PBSO while Mesa worked the day shift. If the two ever saw each other, it was at 6 a.m. when Savoie was leaving work and Mesa was arriving.
“I knew her,” Savoie said. “But it wasn’t like we were best friends.”
When asked what compelled her to give such a gift to Mesa, Savoie said, “It’s just kind of the way I am.” She added that she knew Mesa had young children that she wanted to see grow up. “If I could help, I wanted to.”
Mesa said it took her more than a month to even send out the email to the PBSO staff. As a dispatcher, she said, her nature is to help others, not ask for help.
After it went out, responses poured in, but Savoie was the only person who had the matching O blood type Mesa needed.
Mesa said she sent a link to Savoie explaining the next steps in the process —which included rounds of exams and tens of blood tests at the Cleveland Medical Clinic to ensure her kidney would work in Mesa’s body.
In the days leading up to the exams, and even the surgery, Mesa said she constantly texted Savoie to let her know she didn’t have to go through with it if she didn’t want to.
But to her surprise Savoie never once considered backing out.
“She’s completely unselfish and an amazing human being,” Mesa said.
Mesa and Savoie are both recovering from their surgery at home over the holidays. Mesa’s sons, ages 19 and 12, are “ecstatic” to have a healthy mom, according to Mesa.
On New Year’s Eve, Savoie, who lives in Boynton Beach, will return to PBSO to man the phone lines once again. Mesa, who lives in Delray, will remain off the job until March.
Mesa said she can already feel the difference of having a new kidney in her body and said she has more energy than she’s had in a long time.
She also doesn’t have to spend hours of her life each week at a dialysis center, which she said is a gift in itself.
Savoie’s kidney, which the two have named aptly nicknamed “Klaus the Kidney,” will go down as perhaps Mesa’s greatest Christmas gift.
But an additional stocking stuffer is a budding friendship between the two women.
On the phone, Mesa and Savoie bantered like childhood friends and said they text each other daily now. In addition to learning that they are both people who live to help others, they realized they also share a great sense of humor.
Often their conversations these days reference Savoie’s old kidney.
“I text her sometimes just to ask how Klaus is doing,” Savoie said.