Like many sisters, Megan and Sarah Kellogg are close. But unlike many sisters, they are about to get a whole lot closer.
Megan, 31, will be donating one of her kidneys to Sarah, 28, on May 1. The two grew up knowing that someday this procedure would take place. Sarah was born with polycystic kidney disease, a potentially fatal genetic disease.
“They found out when I was about 6 weeks old. They discovered I had high blood pressure at a routine exam and then discovered cysts growing on my kidneys during testing,” Sarah said.
At the time, doctors thought they would do a transplant, but her health continued to be strong despite the high blood pressure and cysts. The sisters both said that Megan would have been the donor had the immediate transplant taken place, and as the two grew up in Pine, the transplant was something that they always understood.
“We never really talked about it; we just kind of knew it would eventually happen,” said Megan, who now lives in McCandless.
Sarah had a fairly normal childhood, although she had to take medication for her high blood pressure and kidney condition. She also wasn’t allowed to participate in contact sports as a student at Pine-Richland School District, but did play other sports, including softball, tennis and skiing.
“It wasn’t as if I was going to be playing football anyway, so it didn’t really make that much of a difference. I didn’t really know anything else since I was born with [the disease],” Sarah said.
Sarah joked that when she argued with Megan while the sisters were growing up, Megan would threaten to “keep her kidney.”
“She would say, ‘I’m not going to give you my kidney,’ and if anyone heard us arguing, they would wonder what she was talking about,” Sarah said.
In the past few years, Sarah’s health grew steadily worse, although she leads a relatively normal life. She even took a skiing trip with Megan in the winter.
“I got really sick on the trip and became dehydrated. I called my doctors and one of them said, ‘You are our only patient with renal failure that calls us from a skiing trip,’” she said.
Sarah now lives in Lexington, Ky., where her husband, Arya Iranmanesh, is a resident radiologist at the University of Kentucky Medical Center — the same hospital where she will receive Megan’s kidney.
Megan said that like her sister’s doctors, she is amazed at how well Sarah is doing.
“These past two or three years, the doctors have told us to be thinking about this because the medical tests show she should be much sicker than she seems to be,” she said.
For the procedure, the girls’ parents, Kathy and Brian Kellogg, will travel from their home in Pine to be with their daughters. Megan had to go to Lexington for some pre-operative procedures this week and will be in the hospital for about three days following the operation. She plans to take a few weeks off from her job as the director of Doodle Bugs! Children’s Center in McCandless.
Sarah will take a 12-week leave from her job as a bank credit analyst.
“They said it would be about four to six weeks for the sutures and everything to heal, then I need to be careful because of my immune system,” she said.
Sarah plans to begin doctoral studies in the fall, another consideration when they decided to schedule the procedure now.
Sarah and Megan often joke about the upcoming surgery despite some “small fears,” said Megan.
“After I gave her a birthday present, she said, ‘You are giving me a kidney; you don’t have to give me a present,’” she said.
Sarah said, “How do I top that? What do I give her for her birthday?”
Both admit to a small amount of nerves, but know that this is Sarah's only hope to remain off dialysis.
“I’m more worried about her. The stress of the operation and recovery will be much harder on her,” Megan said.
Sarah said she has planned some “little surprises” for her sister to pass their recovery time.
“I know this is a serious thing, but I want to make it as much fun as possible,” she said.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.