Gift of kidney
Lois Holbein won’t be with her sister this Thanksgiving.
The sister, Tony Saunders of Lexington, will travel to Chicago this holiday while Lois plans to stay home with family in Gothenburg.
Yet, Tony carries a piece of Lois wherever she goes.Lois gave Tony a kidney. Tony, in return, gave Lois a silver kidney on a necklace.
With a laugh, Lois said the sisters will celebrate “Bean’s” birthday on Feb. 1, 2012—the second anniversary of the donation.
For Lois, there was no hesitation about giving a kidney to Tony.
The 55-year-old had tried to give her sister one 27 years ago when a blood disease began destroying Tony’s kidneys.
But Tony refused.
“She thought I was too young and I had a baby then,” Lois said.
Within four months on the transplant list, Tony had a new kidney.
The transplanted kidney, from a cadaver, lasted about 27 years.
At that point, Tony was forced to return to dialysis.
“She was so sick, her veins were so weak and she had so much trouble with dialysis,” Lois said. “It was pure hell.”
Even though the sisters don’t have the same blood type, their antigens—a substance that stimulates the production of antibodies—were a match.
Because the transplant team at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha wants to insure potential donors are not coerced, Lois said she called them to ask about the progress of the donation process.
Once it was a go, Tony spent a week undergoing plasmapheresis—a procedure that removes harmful antibodies that can create incompatibilities between donors and recipients.
The day before the surgery, Lois had a final cross-match, and other tests, and met with surgeons, the transplant team and other medical personnel.
At this point, Lois said she was told she could still back out
“I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Why would I put my sister through all of this if I wasn’t going to go through with the transplant.’ ”
Although several people have described Lois as
a hero, she said the real heroes are the people who endure sickness, dialysis, catheters and more.
After transplant surgery was over, Lois spent a week in the hospital to make sure there weren’t any problems.
Although she felt weak and a bit uncomfortable during four weeks of recovery, she said it wasn’t that bad.
“It’s so good to see Tony healthier again,” she said. “She’s not dependent on hospitals, doctors or dialysis.
“I’d do it again if I had another kidney to give.”
The only reminder of the surgery is three small scars on her stomach and abdomen.
These days, Lois said she doesn’t think she did anything special.
“Isn’t it something that anyone would do if you could?” she asked. “I did it because I knew it would help her.”
Dusty Holbein, who works with Lois in the computer repair business she owns—D & R Computing—said he thinks what his mother did is awesome.
“I knew she was going to do it all along,” Dusty said. “That’s the way she is.”