The anatomy of this romance goes beyond the usual two hearts.
Meet Kevin Roberson and fiancée Iris Resto, unlikely lovebirds given new leases on life by their organ transplants: Two lungs for him just four years back, a transplanted kidney for her in 2007.
“We got a second chance at life,” said Resto, 53, of the Bronx. “I’m a sick person with the battle wounds to show for it. And to meet somebody that has almost the same life experience is a miracle.”
Their joyous journey from strangers to soulmates includes a lot of paying it forward, too — in fact, it’s how they met. The grateful organ recipients signed up as volunteers at a 2016 event for LiveOnNY, the federally-designated organization overseeing organ and tissue donation in New York City, Long Island, Westchester and parts of upstate.
As Resto recalls, Roberson appeared about 15 minutes late — leaving her all alone, “waiting patiently” in the Eighth Ave. offices of Google.
Once her cute co-volunteer arrived, the pair shared tales of their life-saving surgeries and became fast friends, even sharing a subway ride uptown. There were sparks, but both were in relationships so things remained on simmer.
“We became friends on Facebook,” recalls Iris.
“I thought you were begging me for my phone number,” Kevin interrupts.
“I don’t think it went like that,” she replies, laughing.
The two shed their not-as-significant others and starting signing up for the same volunteer gigs, growing closer. Iris finally invited him to a LiveOn event at City Hall, and Kevin turned up.
Afterward, the two walked north through block after block of Manhattan before grabbing lunch at a Starbucks near 30th St.
Roberson, 56, turned to another chain restaurant last November when he popped the question, hiding the engagement ring in a McDonald’s bag.
“I don’t think it was very romantic,” he acknowledged as Valentine’s Day approached. “I could have done better. But that ring was burning a hole in my pocket. I couldn’t wait to give it to her.”
By then, both Resto nor Roberson — neither ever married before — knew they belonged together.
“It worked out perfect,” said Roberson. “We just have so much in common, volunteering and telling our stories. And she’s a beautiful woman, so it worked out great.”
Resto concurred: “We were good for each other.”
The twosome — who have yet to set a wedding date — continue to preach the gospel of organ transplant from their unique viewpoints as recipients.
In 2018, almost 900 New Yorkers were given a second chance at life via a new heart, lung, liver, kidney or pancreas. And yet there remain nearly 10,000 state residents waiting for a transplant.
Anyone interested in registering as a donor can go to liveonny.org.
The happy couple has no particular plans for Feb. 14, but one thing’s for sure: They love each other from head to toe.
Roberson even jokes that his transplant turned out better than advertised.