Teenage years have been anything but typical for Madison Ricci of Hamden.
“I was treated for lupus up until junior year of high school. I was on a bunch of meds, getting IV’s and visiting the hospital,” said Ricci.
Last year, she was dealt a world-stopping diagnosis.
Ricci needed a liver and someone to be her donor.
“I was in shock. I didn’t know I would ever need a transplant,” said Ricci.
Side by side with shock came uncertainty.
“It’s been difficult to be told your daughter needs an organ to continue to live,” said Kristine Ricci.
Madison’s mom wasn’t going to just sit, wait and hope.
Kristine Ricci brought fate to her family.
“I wasn’t going to accept that we weren’t going to find the liver. So, I put the request out for a ‘Miracle for Maddie.’ It’s the only way I knew I would reach a lot of people at once,” said Kristine Ricci.
The Facebook post had the power to reach across the globe.
“It was shared over 4,000 times within the first couple of days,” said Kristine Ricci.
A total stranger stepped up.
“We didn’t know who it was, we did find out it was a male,” said Ricci’s father, Todd Ricci.
It turns out, that “stranger” was actually a 21-year-old man who lived just two towns away.
“I kind of knew eventually they would say “you are a match.” When I got that actual confirmation, I was…It was unreal, it was a great moment,” said Jaelin Highsmith.
“I was in shock, actually in class and started walking back and yelling to all my roommates, I was so excited,” said Madison Ricci.
After months of waiting and worrying, the liver exchange was a success.
“He is an angel and, in my eyes, a hero, for doing what he has done…Giving my daughter a second chance,” said Todd Ricci.
For the first time Tuesday morning and live on “GMA,” there was chance to thank the angel that saved Maddie’s life.
“Super exciting…Just tons of emotion…I was thinking of things that I wanted to say, but none of that really mattered,” said Highsmith.
Both Maddie’s and Jaelin’s family were there.
“From the moment I read the story on Facebook, I just needed to meet them,” said his mother, Tracee Highsmith.
“Today was absolutely amazing because now we can welcome them to be part of our family – forever,” said Kristine Ricci.