By Ed Yeates, Deseret News
SANDY — Come midnight Friday, a Sandy couple will celebrate a milestone new year — their first together in 22 years.
Call it fate or coincidence, the road traveled by Tina and Scott Jones is nothing short of amazing.
Their story began at a Christmas-New Year's dance at Highland High School more than two decades ago. As multiple couples sat at a long table, eating dinner, Scott bit into a cherry tomato. "I thought it was going to hit her," he said. "It just kind of splattered on her dress and everything went quiet. I thought, 'I'm dead. I am so dead.'"
At the time, Scott was with his date and Tina was with hers. But when the tomato hit, Tina laughed. "And then this big boisterous laugh comes out and just totally changed the moment," he recalled.
It not only changed the moment then, but would do it again later in a bizarre, yet remarkable way. The two dated and remained friends off and on for a while, but both went their separate ways.
Scott married someone else; so did Tina. Shortly after high school, Scott was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lupus — a devastating life-threatening disease.
As Scott recalled, "I was really down in the dumps. I wasn't getting any better. The disease was progressively getting worse. I just couldn't take the dialysis anymore, and I just couldn't take being sick any more."
Then about five years ago, Tina and Scott met again, by chance, while passing through Price. Divorce had impacted each of them emotionally. Tina learned that Scott needed a kidney transplant to survive. Though the odds were against her, she wanted to be tested. Not only was she a match, she was an exact match.
At the time, Scott said, "There's no way she could be a match, and when we were told she was a perfect match, well, I was just floored."
"It was the neatest thing to finally give somebody their life back," Tina said from her home in Sandy.
Life renewed? It's gone way beyond that transplant six months ago. The two were married in September, drawing together children from both sides of their previous marriages.
"Wow, to finally be married to my best friend and to truly mean that and the bond that you share — not only donating an organ — but then the friendship we've shared through all those years," Tina said. "We're taught to bear one another's burdens and to be able to help bear that burden and to lift that burden from him and to give him his life back so he could get back into the lives of his kids."
The tomato incident in high school, a friendship that wouldn't go away, a chance meeting years later, an exact match for a transplant — call it what you will. Tina believes it's "divine intervention." "I think it was heaven sent," she said. "As much as I've been a blessing in his life, he's been a blessing in mine."
"When we were going through the wedding ceremony, I just didn't think it was real," Scott said. "Actually, I did remember the whole tomato incident and thought, 'Wow, if that would have hit somebody else or if I wouldn't have done it at all, I wonder would we have met or paid attention to each other?'"
The new year will wrap up a whole bunch of years, securing a bond now that probably was always there. Scott says he was always known as the sick kid.
"Now, I have my health back and Tina is here and it's all completely new for me." "We're starting over again for everything," Tina added. "It's the hope you always hold on to and it's finally here."
For the Joneses and their family and friends, they expect 2011 will be a happy "fortuitous" new year.
Incidentally, Scott's lupus is under control and that kidney from Tina is working just fine.
"We both had stronger feelings for each other than just pals and I don't know, I think we both knew we would be back in each other's lives either as friends or whatever," Scott said.
He actually proposed to Tina shortly after high school, but she didn't think it was real.
"He did propose in a letter, and I didn't take him seriously because when he delivered the letter, he was with one of his friends who happened to be a female," she said.