These days, finding good people may feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. For 27-year-old Jackie Cioci, finding Jessica Holland was like finding a diamond in the rough.
It all came down to a lifesaving organ, donated by Holland to Cioci who was, at the time, a complete stranger to her. Now, the two have basically become family in a journey that they say should inspire others not to give up on humanity just yet.
Rewind almost two and a half years, then 24-year-old Jackie Cioci was in desperate need of a kidney donor as she battled stage five kidney failure.
“I wake up and I’m hooked to my machine ..." explained Cioci of her morning routine, when Spectrum News staff first interviewed her in 2019. "I'll unhook and in the morning I'm really nauseous, really sick, so I'll have to relax."
In May 2019, Spectrum News 1 first met Cioci at a fundraiser, put on by her friend Katie Kavanagh.
"I just hope everything goes smoothly from here on out, and she finds what she needs," said Kavanagh.
And she did.
"When I actually got a date for the surgery, besides from getting the actual kidney, it was probably one of the best days of my life," said Cioci.
Fast forward to today and Cioci is a happy and healthy 27-year-old.
"I keep getting good reports, so you're kidney is doing great," joked Cioci with her donor, Jessica Holland.
She got her second chance at life thanks to Holland, a complete stranger at the time.
"I kept seeing posts from her friend Katie's FB about Jackie. I started thinking about her mom and what it would be like if that was me and if no one was coming through to donate a kidney to save her life," explained Holland.
Holland went through hurdles: numerous screenings, traveling back and forth from Syracuse to University of Rochester Medical Center, but ultimately was the perfect match. Since November 17, 2020, these two women are forever connected.
"When someone like this comes along and saves your life ... she didn't even know me," said Cioci.
With Holland and her seven kids, plus Cioci and her seven siblings all coming together, it shows family isn't just blood.
"She's like my second mom," said Cioci.
"If we keep on spreading love, whether it's a kidney or being kind to a neighbor, whatever that is, I encourage people to do that. And it will benefit people, as well," advised Holland.
Cicoi also expressed that donors need more support with taking time off from work for tests, the surgery, recovery and everything in between. It's something she hopes changes in the future.