Sylvan Lake local Lexie Libby had been losing hope of ever finding a compatible living kidney donor.
That all changed when her younger sister, Emma, told her she had made some life changes and passed the tests to become her donor.
Lexie was first diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), an autoimmune disease that attacks the kidneys when she was four-years-old in 1994.
Roughly eight years ago she was told a kidney transplant would be needed, and it would be ideal if it came from a family member, as there would be less of a chance for the kidney to be rejected.
Many family members have tried, though none made it passed the first test; blood pressure.
“They test the blood pressure because after the surgery your blood pressure spikes and they need to make sure that when it does spike it wouldn’t be in a dangerously high range,” explained Emma.
For Lexie, seeing family member after family be told no over and over was disheartening.
She said she was beginning to lose hope of ever finding a donor.
“I was spiralling into a dark place and I was becoming more and more hopeless with each failed test,” said Lexie.
When Emma was told she wouldn’t be able to move on she took a look at her life and started to make some changes.
The biggest change was quitting smoking.
“I did that almost immediately. But I also started to do other little things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator,” Emma said. “I also stopped drinking as much, which I didn’t realize until just now.”
After being denied the first time, Emma had to wait a minimum of six months to begin the process again.
During this time, she told no one what she was doing.
“I didn’t want to get her hopes up again, just in case it didn’t work out again,” said Emma. “I knew that each failed test hurt her.”
Lexie said she was shocked when Emma came to her after passing the blood pressure test.
“I had no idea she was doing that for me… I have hope again because of what she was willing to do for me,” said Lexie. “I mean she’s my baby sister, I’m supposed to be protecting her and here she is protecting me.”
Lexie said Emma had always played nurse as the two grew up. Emma would take the time to sit with her sister when she was feeling ill or visit her in the hospital.
After the procedure Emma is looking to go into nursing.
“Growing up with Lexie I was always fascinated by all the medical aspects… This has just sort of cemented that I want to help in this way,” Emma said.
After the surgery, which is scheduled for Jan. 30, and the healing process both Lexie and Emma hope to return to school and finish their education.
The whole process has shown them and their entire family how important organ donors truly are.
“I had no idea it would be this difficult to find an organ donor. I thought on numerous occasions this whole process felt impossible,” said Lexie.
Emma says the choice to donate a kidney to her sister was an easy one.
“I have two good kidneys and I only need one, Lexie needed the other,” she said, adding she has signed her donor card after this whole ordeal.
The sisters hope their story will impart the importance of becoming an organ donor, and hope maybe more people will consider signing their donor card now.
Lexie and Emma will undergo surgery on Jan. 30 in Edmonton and follow the surgery with what is expected to be a lengthy recovery, but the sisters and their family once again have hope.