By Morgan Slimak

You know when you have a particular coffee chain that you just love? That’s how Vince Villano felt about a Starbucks location in DuPoint, Washington. He was what you would call a regular, heading in almost every day to get his morning cup of joe.

Despite the fact that he spent a lot of time there over the years, none of the employees who worked at the Starbucks really knew much about the man.

Barista Nicole McNeil simply knew him by what he ordered — “Trenta Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, full pumps,” she told Starbucks Stories.

Although they had never really talked before, Nicole was very observant. That’s why one day when Vince walked in looking kind of upset, she felt like she had to say something.

After her shift was up, she went over to his table and sat down next to him, and said hello.

“He walked in and just looked particularly sad,” said Nicole, “and I was just like, ‘What’s, ya know, what’s goin’ on Vince?’”

What she found out was quite a coincidence. Vince was an Army veteran sergeant, the same as her husband.

He had served as an emergency medical technician for eight years. As for what he was upset about, Vince said he didn’t want to talk about it. He mentioned it was a very long story, however, that didn’t dissuade Nicole.

“As a barista we can really tell when our customers are sad and when they’re hurting and so it was neat to have the opportunity to talk with him,” Nicole said.

Eventually, he told her what was going on, and Nicole patiently listened, taking it all in.

It turns out, Vince had a life-threatening kidney disease.

While he had managed to keep it at bay for 10 years, the doctors now told him he was going to have to go on dialysis.

Since he was now nearing the end, his mind turned toward turned to the worse — the fact that his two 18 and 20-year-old daughters were no longer going to have their father in their lives. Vince’s only hope was to get a new kidney from someone off the donor list, but it was unlikely that it would happen.

Later that day, Nicole told her husband Justin about the veteran’s story and without hesitation, he immediately responded, “I have a kidney, he can have mine.”

Just like that, everything changed!

Nicole was not shocked.

Her husband has such a kind heart that she didn’t even have to ask if he was serious. She already knew he was.

“He cares about people almost more than any anybody I’ve ever met,” Nicole said. “He’s the kindest person I’ve ever met. So, when he said, ‘I’ll give my kidney,’ it seemed like, ‘OK, sure. Yeah, you will.'”

Soon after, Nicole and Justin went to meet with Vince to learn more about him and his family.

The two men instantly hit it off.

“It’s like brothers,” said Justin.

Justin and Vince quickly bonded and started hanging out regularly.

It pained him to watch his new friend continue to get sicker, so eventually, they decided they would go talk to the doctors to see about the possibility of a transplant.

According to the medical team, it all depended on blood type and genetics, but what they found out was incredible. Not only was Justin a match, but he was about as closely genetically related to Vince as he could possibly be without actually being his real brother. It was a sign from above that the transplant was meant to be, and so they scheduled it.

Both of their families spent Christmas together, then afterward, both Justin and Vince checked into the hospital.

Luckily, everything went smoothly.

Not only are both men now very healthy, but the doctors say that Justin’s generous gift will buy Vince an extra 20 years of life.

“When I was first diagnosed, I felt like, ‘Well, I’m dying’,” Vince said. “It was not my first encounter with mortality. I had some situations in the military. But this was really out of my control. There’s nothing you can do. It’s kind of black cloud that hangs over your head all the time.”

When Justin came along, everything changed, and Vince got a second lease on life. If Nicole had never decided to ask Vince, practically a complete stranger, how he was doing that day in Starbucks, it’s likely that he would now have already passed away. It’s amazing what happens when we open up to others.

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