Good Samaritan Barbara Ryder, 59, met 68-year-old Andy Loudon for the first time yesterday — and gave him a big hug ahead of the official announcement of the successful transplant operation.
The pair were not allowed to meet before surgery in case Barbara wished to change her mind.
When she donated the kidney in September she had no idea who would receive the organ.
A week after the operation Barbara, who lives near Launceston, Cornwall, received a card from Mr Loudon.
“He said it had changed his life and that made the world of difference to me and I started to recover very well after that,” she said.
Andy, a retired carpenter from Caddington in Bedfordshire, had been desperate to meet the woman who gave him the gift of life.
“I can’t believe how lucky I have been. It’s just such an enormous gift.”
Barbara, a grandmother and nurse at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, Devon, has recovered well and hopes to encourage other people to donate.
Ahead of meeting Andy, she said: “It is better than Christmas. You get a lot more fun and happiness by giving something that can change a life.”
Three altruistic kidney donor operations have taken place in Britain following approval from the regulator, the Human Tissue Authority.