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More than Sisters

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From a childhood bedroom to a strong Christian faith and so many common interests, sisters Brenda Prelog and Spring Hill’s Linda Ravenhorst have shared so many things–including what can only be called a Lifelink.

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Brenda Prelog, a high school math teacher, traveled from Maryland to Tampa, FL, to donate a lifesaving kidney to her sister, Linda Ravenhorst on April 30, 1996.

Twenty-five years later, Brenda is making the same journey, this time from Colorado, to celebrate the milestone anniversary of this life saving donation with her sister, family and friends. “I wanted to bring my sister a card, but they don’t really make cards for kidney donations,” Brenda said with a smile. “I did find a 25th anniversary card that read, ‘We’ve been so close all these years. Somehow, it fit.”

Linda was diagnosed at age 49 with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD); an often hereditary condition that causes cysts to grow on the kidneys, slowly reducing their function and leading ultimately to kidney failure. PKD was no stranger to their family, as their father was a sufferer whose life was extended by 17 years thanks to a kidney donation from a deceased donor. 

Linda not only lived but thrived with her diagnosis, staying active as a nurse caring for patients who required specialized skin or wound care. “I was working in home health at the time in six counties. I was pretty healthy. I was not affected like a lot of people are,” said Linda. When Brenda herself discovered that she did not have the disease, she became determined to become a kidney donor. “If God gave me the gift of two good kidneys, the least I could do is give one away. I just didn’t know if it would go to my brother or my sister,” Brenda said. Indeed, while their brother also suffered from PKD, it was Linda who eventually needed the transplant. And on April 30, 1996, at Tampa General Hospital, Brenda donated her kidney to her sister. 

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Their presiding surgeon, Dr. Victor Bowers, still cares for patients at Tampa General Hospital’s Transplant Institute. “I am happy to hear that 25 years later they are doing well! Organ donation, living or deceased is truly the gift of life!  This is a wonderful example of that statement,” said Dr. Bowers, Surgical Director of Renal Transplantation and Director Emeritus of Tampa General Hospital Advanced Organ Disease & Transplantation Institute.

Linda expressed her gratitude to her sister. “I did not have to go on dialysis because I had someone waiting in the wings. It was very emotional, and it is a very special thing. We were a very good match,” she said. The sisters even healed together at Linda’s home, with their husbands serving as their caregivers as they recuperated. 

Both sisters have led active lives since the transplant as they’ve pursued their careers, traveled and enjoyed their family.  

The sisters planned a small gathering at Linda’s church to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their living donation and transplant. On this occasion, the sisters want nothing more than for more folks to register to save lives through Florida’s donor registry at www.DonateLifeFlorida.org. These donations are greatly needed, as over 107,000 people are waiting in the United States for a lifesaving transplant; 85% of those are in need of a kidney.

“The good Lord matches good people,” said Brenda. And one thing is certain; there’s no better match than Linda and Brenda. “When you’re this close in age, you’re more than sisters, you’re friends,” she said. 

For more information on LifeLink, or to register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.LifeLinkFoundation.org.

 

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