Friendly Fisherman Restaurant manager donates kidney to coworker

- Steve Arellano was healthy until he approached 40. That's when cancer forced him to lose one kidney and live with the other severely weakened.

"Nothing was wrong. I could work 12 to 16 hours a day," he said. "I feel tired all the time. Sometimes even on my days off, I don't feel like getting out of bed."

For two years, he has waited for a transplant while enduring 12-hour dialysis sessions. A donor did come up, but he allowed a person behind him on the list, but nearer to death, to take his place.

Arellano explained the choice was simple, saying, "I just left it with my faith in God."

Meanwhile, coworkers at the Friendly Fisherman Restaurant in Madeira Beach watched as their friend declined. 

Jennifer Millamaci, a fellow manager, and friend of three and a half years, says she couldn't stand by and watch any longer. 

"I have seen him struggling when he comes to work. And not being able to come to work. We are really close so he tells me everything that he is going through," she said. "One day I just woke up, I called my mom, and told her I wanted to get tested."

It was a match.

"I didn't want to [say] 'Hey, give me your kidney, I am dying,'" said Arellano. "It just didn't seem right."

Millamaci says tests showed she'll be fine with just one kidney, so that's what she'll have.

Now, she and her friend will have more in common than just the company that signs their paychecks.

"It's weird, I know people think I am crazy. I am not nervous. I am not scared," said Millamaci. "If anything, I am excited because he is going to be getting another chance."

Millamaci has until the anesthesia hits to back out, but she promises not to.

The transplant is scheduled at Largo Medical Center Wednesday, May 23 at 5 a.m.

"How I feel physically, I don't think I would have made it that long," said Arellano. "There is still love out there. It's there. We don't show it. We don't ever see it. But it is there."

Millamaci's recovery will take a few weeks, but Arellano may need longer. But it's a recovery for which he's happy to have.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to benefit Arellano and Millamaci.

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