A Twin Sister's Donation - Reflections After My Twin's Death
My fraternal twin sister Nancy developed an auto-immune
scleraderma, when she was 38 years old. It's a nasty disease that
causes one's skin to harden, including organ skin. After several years,
her kidneys failed from the disease. She hoped her kidneys would
recover, but after a few years on dialysis, she requested a transplant.
Once Nancy asked for the transplant, my siblings and I were
the question of being a donor. Our 4 siblings declined for various
reasons. I had been a bit of a hypochrondiac, always fussing about one
thing or another with my health. The thought of major surgery and
living the rest of my life with one kidney was quite frightening. I
didn't even know if I could pass the tests, let alone be healthy
But she was my twin, and my heart told me to do it. I told her
wanted to be her donor. After a bit of hesitation, she accepted, and we
proceeded with the tests. I was a very good match, as siblings often
are. (Identical twins are perfect matches; fraternal twins are like
other siblings.) I passed all the health tests and with each one, the
likelihood of the transplant grew.
Shortly before we were scheduled for surgery, I developed a
of the flu, and our surgery was postponed for several weeks. While I
was sick, I began to lose my courage for the transplant. I consulted a
therapist that I had seen in the past, and came back to knowing that I
felt called to do this, and that I would be quite upset with myself if
I surrounded myself with loving friends who helped me deal
fear, and supported my choice.
While I was sick, Nancy became ill as well, and needed a
Her transplant team felt that it was unlikely that we would continue to
be a match (because of the antibodies that develop after a
transfusion.) I decided to use the test results as a sign - if we still
matched, that would tell me to continue.
Much to the surprise of the team, we still matched, and
This surgery happened in 2000. When it was originally
scheduled, I was
to have the older type of surgery, with the large incision. I was
really nervous about that incision. It was a pleasant surprise a few
days before surgery to receive a call from my surgeon inviting me to
have laparoscopic surgery if I was willing to be the first at our
hospital. I said yes.
In preparing for the surgery, I also met with another
specialty was helping people prepare for surgery. At her suggestion, I
made a tape of inspiring music and myself reading Psalms and prayers. I
requested and was given permission to have this played by headphone in
my ears even while I was asleep during the surgery. In fact, I later
heard that the surgeons kept the room quiet and didn't play their usual
music, because they knew I had music playing. It was remarkable to come
out of anesthesia hearing my own voice praying.
Family and friends from church spent the day in the waiting
talking and praying for both of us. It was comforting to know that they
My other sisters were pretty nervous, having two of us "under
knife". We both did fine, though. Nancy immediately felt much better. I
left the hospital within a few days, and she left in a week or so. I
felt pretty good within a few weeks, went to work in a month, felt
slightly "off" for six months or so, and then was completely back to
normal. I've had no health impact from having one kidney.
Nancy lived for 5 years with her new kidney. We became closer
I had hoped that she would live much longer, and that she'd
good health. But she continued to have other severe problems related to
and experienced a couple of additional surgeries not related to her
kidney. Her final year was quite difficult, as her lungs deteriorated
and she needed to be on a ventilator for much of that time. She died on
February 13, 2005.
Despite all of that, I'm thankful for the opportunity of
her a kidney. She had the freedom of five years off dialysis. I have
the satisfaction of having made a big difference in the life of the
most important person to me.
From the surgery I developed a sense of confidence, as that
hypochondria that I mentioned earlier has diminished. I discovered just
how healthy, sturdy and well I am. That's been a lovely and unexpected
If you have the opportunity to make the difference for someone
... trust what your heart tells you to do. If you choose yes, surround
yourself with people who love and support you. You just might find that
the hardest part comes before the surgery, not after, and that making a
difference is a wonderful gift to yourself.
If you have questions or would like to contact me,
write to me at email@example.com
Twin to Nancy McEvoy