Jamie Fatato, of Weehawken, began suffering from kidney failure 15 years ago while visiting his mom in Florida, his girlfriend, Mariam "MJ" Mirbaba said.
The kidney Fatato received from his brother back then began failing in 2018.
Since then, 49-year-old Fatato has spent five hours a day, three days a week on dialysis trying to find a new kidney.
The search was exhausting, and Fatato was losing hope.
But, last fall, a woman tracked down Fatato's relatives over Instagram looking to get in touch with him.
It turns out she was the girlfriend of the 25-year-old son Fatato never knew he had.
His name was Kri, and he lived in Southern California with his daughter, Aria -- and they wanted to meet Fatato.
The family spent the next several months getting to know each other and eventually met in person.
Mirbaba said the news was exactly what Fatato needed to keep him moving forward in his search for a new kidney.
"When we found out Jamie had a son, it changed his whole perspective and his will to live," she said.
"When you think you lost all hope and then all of a sudden you’re given this gift, it pushes you to keep moving forward and not give up."
Mirbaba got tested years ago to see if she could be her boyfriend's donor. Since she was not a match, she felt she needed to do everything she could to help Fatato find someone who was.
She used used Instagram, Facebook and GoFundMe -- which had raised more than $7,000 as of March 26, 2021 -- in hopes of reaching the right person, but turned up short month after month.
It wasn't until the onset of the pandemic that Mirbaba joined TikTok, and realized the newly-popular video-sharing app would help her reach an entirely new audience.
"It took me the whole year to convince Jamie to let me post a video about his story on TikTok," she said.
"It was the least I could do. But he's a very private person."
Then, one day, when Fatato was feeling particularly hopeless, he agreed to let Mirbaba post his story to the newly-popular video-sharing app.
Mirbaba posted two clips in mid-January, and then a few more over the next couple of months.
As predicted, they all went viral.
Thousands of TikTok users commented in show of support. Dozens expressed interest in donating. Few followed through with the testing.
"We’ve had several people start the process, but a lot dropped out," Mirbaba explained. "It's a very long process with a lot of testing."
But one person stayed true to the process ever since she reached out following the release of the first TikTok videos.
As fate would have it, she is a match. And if all goes well during the next round of tests, this woman -- who requested anonymity -- is on track to donate her kidney to Fatato.
"Her motivation has nothing to do with us," Mirbaba said of the donor.
"It’s just that she had a family member who she was going to donate to originally but there were complications -- and our hopeful donor lost that family member.
"She said when she saw our video, the family member said 'You have to do this.'"
Fatato could have a new kidney as early as August.
Altruistic was the only word Mirbaba could find to explain it.
"This donor is an angel," Mirbaba said. "Not only is she giving Jamie a life, but our whole family. Jamie's son needs a father, too."
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