She looked up as the door opened. She started to smile when she saw the familiar face enter and approach the counter. However, the moment she looked at him she knew something was very seriously wrong
She wants to say something but she hesitates. She’s concerned but it’s not really her place, she might be crossing a line. However, despite the internal struggle she decides to ask a question. However, she had no way of knowing that her question would end up saving a life.
Vince Villano was a regular customer at the local Starbucks in DuPont. After all, DuPont was his home town. Vince was also a military veteran and he had fallen into the routine of picking up the same drink every morning on his way to work.
He’d been following this routine like clockwork for several years already. As a result, many of the employees would see the ex-sergeant and not only recognize him but also know what he was about to order. However, today something told the barista that not all was as it should be.
The barista in question was Nicole McNeil. She was generally working the shift where Vince would walk in and order. She’d gotten so used to his order that she would start preparing it the moment he walked into the restaurant.
Because he ordered the same drink every morning, Nicole gave him a nickname since she didn’t know anything about him. This was a trick she used with many of her customers to make her life easier. However, today something was different.
It was in January of 2017 when Vince stepped into the Starbucks from the freezing cold streets to order his usual. As soon as he walked in Nicole started to prepare his order. However, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
She looked at him carefully and only became more convinced that all was not well. He wasn’t standing how she’d gotten used to the ex-military man standing and his hands were thrust deep into his pockets. However, it was when she looked at his face that she became truly concerned.
Vince had fallen into a pretty predictable routine of stopping by the Starbucks to order coffee on his way to work. Nicole had always assumed that, like many other people, he merely getting his morning caffeine fix like many others.
Many people use their morning coffee to jumpstart their day but Vince had another reason for stopping by the restaurant like clockwork in the mornings. It had become something necessary as the routine helped him cope after a particularly trying time in his life.
Growing up Dan had set his sights on going to the College of the Siskiyous in California. Several notable sportsmen including Dan Hawkins and Mark Acre were produced at this college though they had many other notable alumni too.
When he finally got to attend the college, Vince knew there was only one thing that he wanted to study namely. emergency medicine management and medicine. However, Uncle Sam had taken note of young Vince.
Upon leaving college, Vince found himself stepping straight into the military. Like with everything in his life, Vince worked hard and soon reached the rank of sergeant. However, in the blink of an eye, Vince realized that he had spent more than a decade had passed.
During his military service, Vince had worked as an Emergency Medical Technician. Over the course of ten years, he had been through a lot and saw plenty of things that still haunted him. However, when he left the military he knew that he had to make a change in his life.
Vince wanted to move on from what he had been doing and decided that he wanted to open a branch of the national Farmer’s Insurance company. He looked and found an office in Lakewood, Washington where he set up shop.
Vince was glad and relieved to finally have a normal job that allowed him to live a 9-5 life, unlike the military. While Vince was proud of his time in the military and had no regrets, he also felt glad that his life was no longer on the line regularly. However, he didn’t know what life had in store for him.
At first, as it is with most servicemen, Vince found it difficult to adapt to life as a civilian. Something that he decided would help to make the transition easier was to have a routine to stick to. And so his daily coffee run to Starbucks started.
For years Vince had been following his routine, collecting the same order every morning like clockwork. And for years he’d always been served by the same barista too. However, neither Vince nor Nicole knew they’d soon be connected due to one simple question.
Nicole Mcneil had always been an ambitious student. After attending and completing her high school career at Stadium High School in Tacoma, Nicole had big dreams and attended the University of Washington.
While at the University of Washington, Nicole through her self into her studies, working hard to earn a degree in construction management. Soon after receiving her degree in 2005, Nicole would meet her future husband who happened to have something in common with Vince.
Nicole and her husband went on to have three children. And it was pure coincidence that Nicole’s husband, Justin McNeil, had also served in the army. And he, like Vince, had also left the military as a sergeant.
Of course, Nicole had no idea that her regular Starbucks customer had so much in common with her husband… at first.
Nicole had been working at Starbucks since 2014, but she still didn’t know Vince well. But, as she was the one who served him every morning, she became familiar with his routine and knew exactly what he would order.
But, unbeknown to Vince, working at the coffeehouse for all those years had put Nicole in a unique position.
In Nicole’s profession, she came in contact with a lot of people on a daily basis. Like others in the service industry, her job revolved around being attuned to her customers.
So, when she began to recognize her regular customers, she quickly picked up on things like body language and changes in mood. That’s why she noticed that something was wrong with Vince immediately.
Nicole later went on to explain on Starbucks’ official website: “As a barista, we can really tell when our customers are sad and when they’re hurting.”
And the extraordinarily perceptive barista and mother-of-three was the first to notice her regular customer’s gloomy expression on that fateful day in 2017.
On one particularly cold morning, Nicole’s shift behind the counter was almost over. Luckily, she still had time to serve her regular customer, Vince.
Having known him for years, she was familiar with his usual demeanor and how he usually behaved throughout the week. According to Nicole, Vince’s expression rarely changed.
In an interview with MailOnline, Nicole revealed more details about how Vince’s daily visits went: “Even when he seemed happy, he always looked a bit glum,” she recalled. “And [he] wanted to just get his coffee and go.”
But one morning, Vince’s face looked different. On that day, he wasn’t his “glum” self. There was much more to it than that…
After she prepared Vince’s usual “30-ounce vanilla cold brew with extra vanilla,” Nicole decided to ask him a question. “Is everything OK?” She asked, genuinely concerned about her regular customer’s wellbeing.
But Vince seemed reluctant to open up. Nicole, undeterred, pressed him for an answer. But she never expected her question to result in one of the most significant exchanges of her life.
“I said, ‘I’m off in 15 to 20 minutes, we can sit down for half an hour and chat before I pick up my kids,’” Nicole told MailOnline.
“When I asked [Vince], he said, ‘It would take too long to tell you.’ I said, ‘I actually do have the time today’.” And so, Vince began to tell the barista what was troubling him.
So Vince started to talk. Nicole quickly discovered that Vince was a veteran, but was surprised to learn that Vince’s problem wasn’t about the transition from soldier to civilian.
It was about something far less psychological.
But it was just as complicated: Vince had Polycystic Kidney Disease, a genetic condition that causes cyst-ridden kidneys to enlarge and shut down. It was a condition that plagued Vince’s family — one of his great-grandparents had passed away from it.
The disease can cause some serious complications, from high blood pressure to kidney failure.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website: “Polycystic kidney disease is an inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop primarily within your kidneys. [They cause] your kidneys to enlarge and lose function over time. Cysts are noncancerous round sacs containing fluid.”
The description continues: “The cysts vary in size, and they can grow very large.”
“When I was first diagnosed, I felt like, ‘Well, I’m dying,’” Vince recalled on the Starbucks website.
“It was not my first encounter with mortality. I had some situations in the military. But this was really out of my control. There’s nothing you can do. It’s kind of a black cloud that hangs over your head all the time.”
By 2016, Vince was on a debilitating dialysis machine. In the days leading up to his talk with Nicole, he had been told by doctors that he needed a kidney transplant — and that getting one was a matter of life and death.
Vince’s story stayed with Nicole for the rest of the day. That evening, she lay down with her husband and told him about her regular customer’s predicament. Then, Justin made a suggestion.
Nicole told MailOnline, “Right away, [Justin] said, ‘Well, I have a kidney. He can have mine.’ It doesn’t surprise me. He’s that generous and that kind – and it doesn’t surprise any of our friends who’ve heard about this. They’re like, ‘Of course Justin would do this’.”
“I invited [Vince] to my birthday party,” she revealed. “And then he started coming over for parties on the holidays, and then he and Justin started hanging out on their own.”
It wasn’t long before Vince had become part of Nicole’s family. She smiled when she saw how well Vince and her husband were hitting it off. Their three children loved Vince, too.
Even though Vince was aware of Justin’s offer, he had his doubts. He knew the chances of Justin being a match were incredibly slim. But, despite this, Justin underwent all the necessary tests. He prayed that he would be a match…
“Testing to see if you can donate a kidney begins with a blood test,” the Alina Health website says on its website.
“The test will determine your blood type and if it will match the recipient’s blood. If your blood type is compatible with the recipient, two more blood tests will be done (tissue typing and cross-matching).” The process lasted 12 months, after which Justin received some incredible news.
The results confirmed that Justin was indeed a match! Without wasting time, the procedure was scheduled for December 26 — the day after Justin’s 36th birthday. And Justin had no regrets.
Justin said, “I felt like (offering to donate) was a pretty easy answer. There wasn’t a lot of thinking about it. It was let’s do this. I can do that if I got two, right? I can give one so that was it. In the end, it really is a life-or-death question. And so it makes it a non-question.”
When the time finally came, Vince and Justin were rolled into the operating room to complete the procedure. Nicole was ecstatic when she learned that the transplant was a success, making an announcement later that day.
For Vince, receiving a new kidney meant that his life would be extended by 20 years, at the very least.