Life can change in an instant. One moment you’re young and in love and planning a wedding, and the next, you’re sitting in a hospital room trying to decipher medical jargon and test results.

That’s how it went for Aly Cola. In a matter of days, her life was turned upside down. Thanks to a great act of kindness, it has been put right-side up once again. Here’s her story:

“My husband, Daniel Cola, is a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force, as well as an NYPD officer. He is the epitome of service and humility and has known that he wanted to serve both our country and community since he was a kid. We are high school sweethearts. He is the love of my life, my best friend, my other half, my partner and the best person I know. However, our marriage did not get off to the easiest start.


Aly & Daniel Cola

“My husband had contracted Dengue Fever, which is a mosquito-borne disease that lowered his kidney function to less than 20 percent. When he still hadn’t recovered after two weeks in the hospital, doctors did a biopsy, which unmasked Daniel’s chronic kidney disease. As crazy as it sounds, the Dengue Fever was a blessing in disguise, because otherwise we would have never known anything was wrong with his kidneys! Apparently, you can remain quite well until late on in chronic renal failure.

“Daniel’s doctors eventually referred us to a transplant team. I was not a match for Daniel, but I was cleared to be a donor, so we decided to participate in a kidney swap with other potential donors and recipients.

“We were on the kidney swap list for about two months when my husband received a text from an Air Force co-worker, Master Sergeant Henry Windels. Though Henry and my husband work in different sections of Stuart Air Force Base in Newburgh, N.Y., they have been friendly for the past few years.

“Henry noticed that he hadn’t seen Daniel in a while. A co-worker told Henry everything that had happened. A few days later Henry contacted Daniel via text and said, ‘I am sorry to hear about your troubles, my family and I are praying for you. I have wanted to donate my kidney for a long time, I have especially wanted to donate it to a veteran. I will not take no for an answer, I want to donate my kidney to you. Please tell me how I sign up to get tested.’ We couldn’t believe it!


Master Sgt. Henry Windels & Staff Sgt. Daniel Cola in pre-op

“Getting cleared to be a donor is no easy task. Henry participated in loads of blood tests, MRIs, ultrasounds, EKGs and urine analysis tests. Henry was a match and the transplant took place on Oct. 6, 2015.

“Henry is very literally saving Daniel’s life. Thanks to Henry, I do not have to start planning my husband’s funeral. Thanks to Henry, I can enjoy many more anniversaries with my husband. Thanks to Henry, my husband will be able to return to work, eat and exercise like he used to. What Henry is doing truly demonstrates the highest degree of brotherhood and humility. There are no words for his kindness.”


Staff Sgt. Daniel Cola & Master Sgt. Henry Windels Post-Op

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

• For more information about becoming a living donor:

For reasons why you should consider being a living donor:

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at