• Sharing Mayo Clinic

    Sister’s Kidney for Little Brother

For his entire life, radio host James Rabe has known that one day he'd need a new kidney. A disease called Alport Syndrome slowly caused his kidneys to fail. As his condition advanced, the search for a new organ began. His big sister stepped up and gave part of herself so her little brother could live. They share their story in the video below.

While the outcomes for transplant patients who receive deceased donor organs are very good, transplants performed from living donors, like the gift given to James by his sister, can have several advantages. For example:

  • Some living donor transplants are done between family members who are genetically similar. A better genetic match lessens the risk of rejection.
  • A kidney from a living donor usually functions immediately, making it easier to monitor. Some deceased donor kidneys do not function immediately, and, as a result, the patient may require dialysis until the kidney starts to function.
  • Potential donors can be tested ahead of time to find the donor who is most compatible with the recipient. The transplant can take place at a time convenient for the donor and recipient.
  • A living donor can sometimes start a chain of transplants, called a paired exchange, thereby saving not just one life, but several.
  • A living donor means that a patient no longer needs to languish on the waiting list, hoping and praying that their chance will come, while their health and quality of life declines. They also can avoid getting too sick to have a transplant.

NOTE: In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first kidney transplant at Mayo Clinic, Sharing Mayo Clinic will be featuring a series of stories about kidney transplant in November. The first organ transplant at Mayo Clinic, a kidney transplant, took place 50 years ago, in November 1963. Since then, nearly 8,000 kidney transplants have been performed at Mayo Clinic’s campuses in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida. Mayo Clinic transplant teams have used advances in surgical techniques, drugs that suppress rejection and the experience with thousands of patients to change what was once considered a “daring operation” by TIME magazine into a safe procedure with excellent outcomes.