Man gets kidneys from deceased sister

January 28, 2008 3:40:56 PM PST
A man on Long Island is celebrating a bittersweet surgery Monday. He received a double kidney transplant from his sister, who had passed away unexpectedly.

Long Island reporter Emily Smith has their story.

Seung Lee has everything to live for. He beat the odds by getting not one, but two healthy kidneys through a donor.

Lee doesn't speak English so a doctor translated for him.

"He says he feels good but he feels very sorry for his sister," Lee said.

He's crying for his older sister, Sunyun Lee. He describes her as his primary caretaker and the one who made him want to live.

But less than two weeks ago, she had an unexpected stroke and was pronounced brain dead.

Today, her son, Christopher, spoke about the extraordinary drama of losing his mom.

"We already knew she couldn't come back, so to save my uncle was the only way," he said.

Together, the family made the decision to donate Sunyun's organs to save her brother's life, knowing he might not survive the 5 to 7 years it could take to get a kidney.

What doctors say was most amazing is that the brother and sister's organs were a perfect match. That's something they say is usually only seen with identical twins.

While alive, doctors say Sunyun couldn't help because of her hypertension. But deceased, her organs saved his life. It was so dramatic that doctors allowed Lee to leave North Shore Hospital in just three days, to go to his sister's funeral and be there for her children.

"She's in my uncle, Christopher said. "And whenever I'm with my uncle, I can feel my mom is there with me." The Lee family says to have Seung alive and healthy is a lesson, that unexpected tragedy can sometimes turn to hope. And that loss can be a gift.