Brother donates kidney to sister: 'He saved my life'

Siblings usually have a bond like no other, but it was one specific act that brought a Wisconsin pair closer together than ever before.

The good deed and significance it has held for years, especially Saturday, April 10 -- National Siblings Day, which comes in the midst of Donating Life Month.

Traveling the world together, Mary Baliker and her brother Doug Frankenstein have a special connection. Beyond just being siblings, he gave her life. 

"The fulfillment that you feel inside giving a kidney to somebody or any organ to somebody is something you’ll never forget," Frankenstein said.

It was a selfless act for his sister who was diagnosed with kidney disease at just nine years old. It was spotted after her parents noticed heavy weight gain and tiredness.

"Growing up with a chronic illness, I honestly didn’t think I was going to live," Baliker said.

Mary Baliker and Doug Frankenstein

Ill for years, it wasn't until she was 17 years old that she started dialysis and learned Doug was the perfect match. 

"Having a living donor is an ideal situation. It makes your chances of a successful transplant at a much higher rate and 25% of siblings are a good match," said Baliker.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, only one in five people on the waitlist will receive a kidney transplant this year. As chronic kidney disease impacts 37 million adults and some children, right now they are also at greater risk of developing life-threatening complications from COVID-19.

"We are still being immune-compromised," said Baliker.

Mary Baliker and Doug Frankenstein

Encouraging awareness, a quick quiz can tell you if you are at risk. As Baliker is able to celebrate 40 years of a renewed life, the duo is asking everyone to consider becoming living donors so others may have that same chance.

"I just care so much about what he did and how he saved my life," Baliker said.

Additionally, Baliker has devoted her life to advocating for kidney policies and has joined in the fight to pass the Living Donor Protection Act of 2021 to support those giving the gift of life, after her brother lost his job during his recovery from the surgery.

To learn more about chronic kidney disease, visit kidney.org.

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