HAMLET — Jeff Bentley never met Trey Chance — the young man who saved his life.
It was Chance’s tragic loss of life, after being hit by a car Oct. 29, 2014, that allowed Bentley to continue his, with his new wife Theresa.
“I was very fortunate,” Bentley said Friday evening, as he gathered with Chance’s family at Hamlet City Lake, near the scene of the incident on Boyd Lake Road, to celebrate what would have been his 21st birthday.
Bentley had a kidney disease for most of his life, being diagnosed at 15, and was in the end stages of renal failure when he got word of being eligible for a transplant.
“It was nothing less than a miracle because I was on the list less than a month,” he said. “Very unheard of for something like that to happen.”
Even more miraculous for Bentley was that he was the second person activated for the transplant and had less than a 30 percent chance of receiving the organ.
Chance’s kidney was a zero match, which Bentley said is the highest possible match between a donor and recipient.
“The surgeon literally walked in that morning and said, ‘You’ve hit the jackpot,’” Bentley recalled. “He said the way everything lined up, it’s amazing.”
Bentley had his surgery Nov. 1, 2014.
After the transplant, he chose to send a card to the family, not knowing who they were.
“I chose to wait an extended period of time, because something like this obviously is pretty traumatic for a family,” he said. “It’s not something you want to bring up as a fresh wound.”
Trey’s mother, Angela Chance, said it was the Saturday before Christmas when they received the first letter from the donor’s association letting them know about his organs going to different people, but without names.
“That was the first thing that brought peace over me, I thought he was just going to be in a lab somewhere…it scared me,” she said. “And then the next letter I got was last year and it said everyone was doing OK, it made me feel a little bit more at ease.”
As she finished up that sentence, several family members lit off fireworks by the lake.
“Trey did this on his own. And for a 19-year-old to do something like this on his own, I felt like a very proud mom,” she continued. “And then to come to find out that this man had been sick his whole life, and that Trey helped him, that made me understand a little bit that maybe things happen for a reason.”
After the family let balloons lift off into the air, they lit Chinese lanterns which drifted over the park. Bentley and his wife joined Trey’s mother and father, James Chance of Laurinburg, in lighting and sending off the final lantern.
After his experience, Bentley said he would definitely encourage people to donate their organs.
My life is completely turned around,” he said. “I still have to take a bunch of meds, but its nothing like what I had to do. I would walk up a flight of stairs and I would be totally out of breath…I’m a very blessed man.”
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.