Sean Merold's most treasured gift this Christmas wasn't that he is a valued member of a Sacramento firm that closed a $600 million real estate deal last week the largest in California this year.
It's not even that Merold and his wife, Katie, spent their first Christmas together as newlyweds.
Merold's greatest gift is that he is alive and not fearful of dying at 32 from a debilitating kidney disease that shook him and his loved ones for most of 2012.
You could say it was a kind of miracle a match of blood, tissue, white cells and fellowship from an unexpected source.
Merold had IgA nephropathy, a disorder in which protein called IgA builds up on the kidney tissue. At their worst, Merold's kidneys were functioning at only 7 percent capacity as toxins built up in his body while he experienced horrible headaches, nausea and fatigue.
"There is a chance I might die," he said, recalling the risks if his UC Davis Medical Center doctors weren't able to find a donor for a kidney transplant. A man who played in rock bands was suddenly praying for his life as his immediate family members were ruled out as potential donors.
But you never know who might save your life one day. In Merold's case, it was Elliot Williams, a co-worker at Jones Lang Lasalle, the downtown real estate firm that had just negotiated the $600 million sale of industrial holdings owned by the late Joe Benvenuti.
Merold and Williams had gone to each other's weddings last year and were both Jesuit High School graduates, though eight years apart.
They both had Type B blood. Merold's white cells didn't reject those of Williams.
As if the two were brothers, Williams passed every test to determine if he was a match for Merold. When Williams told Merold he was ready to help, they became as close as brothers.
"I had a true moment where I had an opportunity to do something," said Williams, who drew inspiration from his father-in-law's donation of a kidney to his sister-in-law, who suffered the same affliction as Merold.
"At Jesuit, one of the key phrases is, 'Live your life to be a man for others,' " Williams said. "That came back to me and I just drew off that giving of yourself to improve someone else's life."
It wasn't any little thing. Williams was on the operating table for more than four hours while doctors removed a kidney for Merold. He is still recuperating, but feeling better every day.
And Merold? "It's a life-changing experience," he said. "It proves there are good people out there. He didn't have to do this."
That's the best part: Williams felt he did. Some talk about the Christmas spirit; he lived it. And at a firm where they closed a huge deal last week, Williams' gift trumped all by a long shot.