Love at first pipe
How a plumbing job led to marriage and a life-saving transplant
In 2014, Fiona Simpson, a plumber employed to the National Water Commission’s (NWC) May Pen branch, was assigned to repair a pipe at a house in the Clarendon capital.
Little did she know that the visit would open the spigot of love as the homeowner, Michael Francis, would soon become her husband.
Fiona said that she and her husband are “the perfect match”, so much so that she underwent a kidney transplant last November to save his life.
That serendipitous series of events was sparked when Fiona discovered an illegal water connection at Michael’s premises and admonished him to have it regularised with the commission, a warning with which he complied.
That chance decision not to immediately disconnect the main, as she had often done, was followed by an invitation for Michael to visit her church, which he duly did and eventually became a convert.
“He came the Sunday and he started to visit the church, and then he get baptised, and he was there until he said he would like to get married to me,’’ Fiona said during a Gleaner interview at their home in Toll Gate in the parish on Saturday.
But Michael’s ambitions were initially foiled by a fundamentalist pastor who reportedly discouraged the wedding on the grounds that Michael was a divorcé.
After relinquishing their membership at that church, Michael surprised Fiona with a proposal at the NWC office in May Pen.
“I [wanted] to go inside one of the holes on the road when she was fixing a pipe, and the water cover both of us. That was the plan,” Michael said with a laugh as he reminisced about his original proposal plan.
Their relationship faced a major test when Michael fell ill in 2017.
Subsequent tests revealed he had kidney problems.
Fiona, 46, said that after countless adverse reactions to dialysis, hospital stays, and growing weary of seeing her husband in unbearable pain, she decided to alleviate Michael’s pain by donating one of her kidneys.
“I go the blood lab and test my blood and my blood match with his, and I say. ‘God, You’re working on it!’” said an enthused Fiona.
Having made contact with the transplant unit at The University Hospital of the West Indies, Fiona said she was undeterred in helping her husband and proving her faith.
“I’m a Christian and I believe in God, and I believe it’s God tell mi fi do it, so I just go ahead,” she said.
Michael believes it was divine will that caused Fiona to be deployed to his home, hinting at a reversal of fortunes from the biblical story of Adam and Eve.
“In Genesis, it tells you say God take a rib out o’ man, an’ make woman, so why woman can’t give back man something fi make him live. Love still in Jamaica, but it hard fi find,’’ added Fiona.
Michael, 61, has a strong belief in purpose and fate, revealing that at birth, his mother had been told by a doctor that he would have four days to live.
In January last year, doctors again said he had two weeks to live and would die before a scheduled January 26 surgery.
“From I was born, I been getting time to pass off, and here am I, and I will make it to [age] 62,’’ said the optimist.
Michael told The Gleaner that he was first impressed by Fiona’s love for God and has always had a soft spot for women who do ‘’heavy-duty work”.
Beaming with pride, he said she is usually the centre of his conversations, as he often brags about her capabilities.
“Whenever I go out and talk, I say, ‘My wife is a plumber ... an industrial plumber. She do everything, connect all pipes, cut off pipes. Most times I tell them, ‘If you don’t pay your bill, my wife gonna come cut off your water,’” he joked.
Fiona said that she ventured into plumbing at age 25, adding that she had always wanted to work in a male-dominated field.
The couple said that while the recovery process has been smooth since their November 2022 surgeries, they are still facing hefty medical and hospital bills.
The surgery at the UHWI amounted to J$3 million. Approximately $1.1 million of that deficit has been cleared.
Michael, who is still on medication, told The Gleaner that he has to pay $265,000 every three weeks to cover his mounting medical expenses.
The couple have expressed gratitude to NWC staff and many others for support, but said there is room for more assistance.
How you can help
Anyone who wishes to assist the Francises may donate via GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/t49kr-a-perfect-match) or make deposits to the following National Commercial Bank savings account 564163368 in the name of Fiona Simpson-Francis, May Pen branch, or contact Fiona at 876-899-5116.