In 2015, we introduced you to Cheryl Yurek, who saved Gail Kleparek’s life when she answered a long-shot request on Facebook.
Gail needed a kidney, and likely would still be on daily dialysis, had it not been for Cheryl’s generosity — and her bravery.
The two women remained close over the years, like sisters — until death unexpectedly separated them late last month. And though she’s no longer living, Cheryl continues to save lives.
”Alright, mama, I’ll catch you on the flip side,” Cheryl told Gail in August 2015, before the two women — complete strangers just months prior — would be forever linked by generosity and selflessness.
Those two characteristics live on, despite Cheryl’s unexpected death Jan. 28 from a brain aneurysm experienced two days prior.
News 4 was there when the two met in person for the first time, after Cheryl answered the post by Gail, out of options and pleading for a miracle.
”The thing that’s kept me living is the perfect kidney that she gave me,” Gail said. ‘That thing is just like, perfect. Every time I go to my checkups, they’re like, oh boy, you got a good one.”
The reason Gail is alive is the part of Cheryl that still lives on in her — a thought that offers some comfort to her boys, ex-husband and daughter, who found the 40-year-old struggling to breathe Sunday morning.
”Something’s wrong with my mom. What’s wrong with my mom?” said Cheryl’s daughter, Kate Yurek. “I want my mom to be OK.”
Suddenly, the woman who’d spent her adult life providing miracles needed a miracle of her own.
“It was just like, I can’t believe this. This woman is the healthiest woman on earth,” Gail said. “She ran, she ate good, anything and everything to stay healthy, she did.”
But Cheryl never regained consciousness after Sunday. She died Tuesday, after family and friends said their goodbyes.
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”I just said, there’s a lot that you’re going to miss,” Kate said. “I graduate in June and you won’t see me walk the stage. And I’m going to college in the fall and you won’t get to see me start. But just because you’re not here physically doesn’t mean that you won’t see all the good things in my life and all the things I’m going to do.”
The aneurysm had nothing to do with the transplant. In fact, Cheryl was preparing for another surgery, to donate part of her liver to a man in Rochester.
”It was very hard, very hard. It’s just … I thanked her,” Gail said. “I thanked her for saving my life. And that I would continue to do what she would do.”
Cheryl’s upbeat personality and positivity was infectious. And she never turned down an opportunity to do something for someone else.
“If you needed anything, the first person you’d call is my mom, whether it was something small or something big, she’d always find a way to help you and make it happen,” Kate said.
Even in the most extreme cases.
”She wanted to show other people that it’s not hard to save a life. It’s not hard to love another person,” Gail said. “Every person that she ever touched, or ever met, or ever talked to, somehow she touched their life in a way that they will never forget her.”
Cheryl, who was also a longtime blood donor, also donated her liver, remaining kidney and pancreas to three people in need. The process is made possible by ConnectLife, Western New York’s only community blood center. Visit www.connectlife.org or call (716) 529-4300 for more information and resources.