Sister donates kidney to sister, then needs one herself - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Sister donates kidney to sister, then needs one herself

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - When Jessica Ferrato's sister got sick and needed a new kidney, Jessica donated one of her own.

"I donated my kidney to her when I was 18," said Jessica. "It was the second transplant my sister got. She also got one from my father."

Years later, after Jessica had her first child, she too had kidney failure.

"I think it was the hardest for my husband and my parents," said Jessica. "To have one child have a terminal illness and that watch it happen to a second, after a donation like that, you can't describe it."

Doctors discovered the sisters both had atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, which causes blood clots that can lead to kidney failure. It's extremely rare.

"To be completely honest with you, we probably don't know what the true instance of this disease is, whether it's in Iowa or anywhere else in the country or even internationally," said Dr. Carla Nester, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. "We're not completely sure."

Jessica says when she got her diagnosis, she got online and searched for specialists in the disease. She found out there was one at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, quite a ways from her Reno, Nevada, home.

"I just emailed and, within minutes, I had an email response from her directly talking about the situation I was in and giving some advice on how to manage my care," said Jessica.

Doctors told Jessica she needed a kidney and recommended she look for a donor. Her stepmother, who's raised Jessica since she was just three years old, volunteered.

"Taking a kidney from somebody you love, especially when you've done it yourself, is hard, and I didn't want anything to happen to her," said Jessica.

Three months ago, Jessica accepted her stepmother's kidney. Jessica's follow-up appointments have gone well, and her stepmother is healthy, too.

Jessica says she's looking forward to Mother's Day on Sunday, the first time she's felt healthy on the holiday since becoming a mother. She's also planning to spend the day with her stepmother.

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