Sister Act: Living Kidney Donation Provides Best Chance for Long-Term Health

October 15, 2015

By Jim Parsons

Few people see the words “Sissy’s Gone, 1/19/12” tattooed on Rolanda Franklin’s abdomen, but that’s fine by her. The Baltimore native knows what they mean and why they are there.

“Sissy” is the name affectionately given to the kidney Rolanda donated to her older half-sister, Tina McRae. Tina, who had lost her hearing to Alport Syndrome, learned that her kidneys had been affected by the disease and were on the verge of failure. A transplant was the only alternative to dialysis.

For Tina, a living-donor transplant was the ideal course of action. With a living-donor transplant, she would receive a better-quality organ that would likely begin functioning immediately with a lower risk of rejection, freeing her from dialysis.

A living-donor organ would also last longer than one from a deceased donor, increasing Tina’s chances of long-term health.

Tina had several advantages when considering her treatment options. Among the most important was working with specialists at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute.

More than 80 percent of the approximately 2,000 living-donor kidney transplants performed in the Washington, D.C., area since 1988 have taken place at MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, making the region among the nation’s leaders for the number of living kidney donors.

Tina and granddaughter

Tina’s (left) living-donor transplant has given her the best chance possible for long-term health, and more time to spend with her granddaughter. Her sister Rolanda’s (right) selfless act and the experience and expertise of the specialists at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute made that possible.

For Tina, all that was needed was the right donor. Tina’s half-sister, Rolanda, was an obvious candidate.

“After doing a lot of thinking and praying about it, I was determined to help my sister,” Rolanda says. “Either by a direct donation or an exchange with other donors.”

Tina was thrilled, and immediately called her specialists at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute.

Rolanda soon learned her kidney was indeed a match for Tina. As the sisters prepared for the transplant surgery date—January 19, 2012—to arrive, they decided that this life-saving organ they were about to share needed a name.

“We decided on ‘Sissy,’” Rolanda says. “It just seemed right.”

Although Tina admits to being somewhat anxious about her sister’s generous act, Rolanda was ready for the procedure. She knew from the specialists at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute that the laparoscopic procedure would leave smaller scars and require only a few days in the hospital. Rolanda could expect to return to her normal lifestyle within two weeks.

“They had prepared me for everything,” Rolanda says. “I was totally at peace.”

Today, the sisters are feeling great as they continue to look after each other. They still reminisce about the surgery, along with other experiences they’ve shared, including the good-natured squabbles they got into as kids.

“We don’t do that anymore,” says Tina. “I am just so grateful for her generosity in helping me get better and for the specialists at MedStar Georgetown. I am feeling great.”


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Tina and Rolanda’s Story

MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute

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