There were the day trips to Maine, nice dinners out and a couple of years ago, Jon Schiller bought his wife a beautiful diamond tennis bracelet.
This year, Schiller’s Mother’s Day gift to his wife Julie Brien Schiller will be a hard one to top.
On Monday, Schiller gave his wife of 20 years a kidney — an organ she desperately need to live. He beat out blood out relatives, including her sister Lynne and brother Patrick, as her kidney donor match.
“You really can’t rate this one,” said Julie, a Lawrence native, this week. “I’m still speechless and amazed. It proves how much he loves me. He did this at a drop of a hat, with no reservations.”
One of six of Stephen and Claire Brien’s children, Julie grew up at 208 Farnham St. and graduated from Greater Lawrence Technical High School in 1983. Back then, she also worked at the Showcase Cinemas in Haverhill, where a friend set her up on a blind date with Schiller, who also worked there.
“My best friend’s sister (Kim Carter) set us up,” explained Julie, 48.
Julie and Jon dated for a year, got engaged and married a year later.
Julie went to work for the postal service and is a letter carrier in Portsmouth, N.H. Jon is a service advisor at the Herb Chambers dealership in Danvers. The couple has a 4-year-old daughter Faith.
When she was born in 1964, Julie was premature, weighing only five pounds. Throughout her life, her kidneys “were never fully functioning to begin with,” she said. Six years ago, doctors saw some warning signs in her urine samples, where low protein was detected. About two years ago, the fatigue hit.
“The kidney function was dropping dramatically,” she said.
The search began for a donor and Julie went to dialysis, where she was hooked to machines that did the work her kidneys couldn’t.