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Twice the Gift of Life

New York (Sep 24, 2010)


"It's what any parent would do"

So says Evette Leavy about the gift of a kidney that she made to her 14-year-old son, Brian, in July.

Her husband, Brian De Vale, obviously shares her belief; he donated a kidney to Brian's twin brother, Alan, in 2009.

The transplants were necessary because of a kidney-scarring disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSG, that both twins have. Kidney transplant offers a potential cure.

Kidney donations by both parents to their children are "very uncommon," said Sandip Kapur, M.D., Chief of Transplant Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. "This is the first time I'm seeing it in 14 years of doing transplants." Dr. Kapur performed the transplant surgeries on both Brian and Alan.

The path to kidney donation was easy, Mr. De Vale says. "I just walked in and had the operation." Ms. Leavy, however, was at higher risk for diabetes, which can cause renal failure, and she was not considered a suitable candidate for donation.

But when Brian's health began to fail and he faced a future on dialysis, Ms. Leavy made up her mind to become a donor. "She had to get in shape and show a commitment to lifelong health," Dr. Kapur said.

She did just that, walking every day and eating a more healthful diet. "It wasn't a big sacrifice," she said, "just an adjustment." And now, after the transplant, she says, "My life expectancy is probably longer because I'm living more healthily."

At a press conference on August 11, the twins and their parents were reunited with the transplant team involved in their surgeries. "I feel fine," Alan told reporters. Brian said that now he has more energy and can eat almost anything he wants. Mr. De Vale summarized the family's experience succinctly. "Our daughter was born here," he said. "Our sons were re-born here."

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