At first, Brennan was suspicious of Maldonado's motives and asked whether he hoped for some financial gain.
"You are so paranoid," Brennan said, explaining his initial skepticism. "I don't know him from Adam, and he wants to give me his kidney. One thing led to another and he said, 'Can you get me proper paperwork to fill out?'"
Maldonado's doctor gave him a clean bill of health. He had never suffered any illnesses apart from using eye drops for glaucoma.
"I think God had me healthy all these years so you can have this kidney," Maldonado told Brennan.
Brennan and Maldonado had 95 percent compatibility, which shocked even Brennan's transplant surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Kovler Organ Transplantation Center in Chicago, which performs about 350 to 400 kidney transplants yearly.
"Brothers even usually don't get that high," Brennan said.
After a month of testing, the transplant surgery was scheduled for Dec. 27.
Brennan kept asking Maldonado whether he was sure about going through with it.
"He asked me all the way up to the operation room just about every time we would meet or talk," Maldonado said.
Maldonado didn't tell his wife and daughter about his decision to donate his kidney until the day before the surgery. He said they were supportive, having been through the experience themselves.
Brennan's wife, Barbara, who had her right kidney removed because of cancer, was fearful for Maldonado's life in case the operation didn't go well. But the couple agreed they couldn't pass up his offer.
The surgery was a success. Maldonado was sent home the next day, and Brennan was released from the hospital four days later.
Brennan can now travel without worrying about being hooked up to a dialysis machine for four hours every other day.
"I feel like I kind of have my life back," he said.
Still a bit sore from the surgery, Maldonado returned to work last week performing light duties. Casino management and employees threw a surprise celebration in his honor and dubbed Friday Jaime Maldonado Day.
Maldonado said he hopes his story will inspire others to become organ donors.
"Giving a kidney and helping somebody to have a better life is not going to hurt one's life," Maldonado said.
Today, Brennan and Maldonado share a bond deeper than friendship.
"He's family," Brennan said. Maldonado added, "It was meant to be."
Online: (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, http://bit.ly/Y9wLIj