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Earl McConnell and his wife Shelby have never spent a Christmas away from Nebraska. They knew this year would be different though, when Earl's diagnosis got worse.

"We were young and we didn't think it would ever get to this point," Earl McConnell said. "So when it did really hit home, we were in denial for a long time".

On Nov. 11, 2011 doctors told Earl his kidneys were failing. They said it was only a matter of time before his health would decline fast and that he'd need a replacement as soon as possible.

For Earl, this was troubling because deep down he knew how long the wait for a replacement kidney could be.

"There were times when I thought 'I don't know how much more the kids could take'," Shelby McConnell said.

It was especially difficult for Earl's son Justin. Ever since he was a kid, Justin enjoyed spending time with his dad.

That's why Justin offered one of his kidneys when he found out how sick his dad was.
"He's an amazing individual," Earl McConnell said.

Justin was a perfect match. Unfortunately, none of the hospitals in their home town could squeeze them in. So, Justin and Earl went to Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver.

"I told him right as I left, 'I love you dad'" Justin said. "I heard him say 'I love you too.' Then I went to the operating room."

After a few hours of operation, the doctors came out and told Justin and Early they'd both be fine.

"The entire time after the surgery everyone was like 'you're a hero." I was like 'I just did what he would've done for me,'" Justin said.

The family is staying with friends in Arvada. They plan to head back to Nebraska next week with the best Christmas gift a father could ever ask for.

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