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ST. LOUIS – After one kidney failed, a Marion, Illinois man underwent a second kidney transplant in the middle of the pandemic at Barnes Jewish Hospital.

Stephen Troop, 24, received a kidney donated to him by 23-year-old Sydney Jenkins of Chesterfield.

“I feel like I’m a new version of myself,” Troop said.

Troop received a kidney in January from his mother, but it failed in 10 hours. Then a stranger, Sydney Jenkins, stepped in to help.

“I’ve wanted to make a difference in this world,” Jenkins said.

She did that and more. Sydney first signed up to donate to a friend of a friend but it turned out she wasn’t needed in that situation. She stayed on the donor list and that’s when Troop came into the picture.

“I just honestly think the world of her to be unselfish to give literally part of her own body to a complete stranger,” Troop said. “Pretty miraculous.”

“I just wanted to save a life,” Jenkins said. “I just wanted to do something that’s worthwhile.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Jenkins, Troop, and their families met for the first time. There were no hugs; COVID-19 prevented that.

“She always has a very special place in our heart. Her whole family will,” said Debra Troop, Stephen’s mother.

Troop said the coronavirus pushed back his surgery a couple months. The hospital found ways to ensure transplants would be safe for patients.

“We’ve really changed our protocols; how patients are dealt with, where they’re admitted, to how we clean the operating room,” Barnes Jewish Transplant surgeon Dr. Jason Wellen said.

There’s a lot of thanks and a lot of pride for what Jenkins did to help a stranger.

“It doesn’t surprise us at all,” said Mark Jenkins, Sydney’s father.

“She’s got a heart of gold,” said Angel Jenkins, Sydney’s mother. “She will do anything for anybody.”

The donor and recipient share more than a kidney; both are interested in medicine. Troop is studying to be a doctor while Jenkins wants to be a physician’s assistant. Two people who understand how important it is to help others.