Lexie Libby, left, and her sister Emma Libby pose for a photo before the January surgery date last year. Lexie has suffered from an autoimmune disease which attacks her kidneys for the last 24 years. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News

Sylvan Lake resident says kidney donation changed her life

Lexie Libby received a kidney from her younger sister Emma last summer

It has been a little more than a year since sisters Emma and Lexie Libby were to undergo surgery for a kidney transplant.

Emma was scheduled to donate one of her kidneys to her older sister Lexie last January.

Complications and illness pushed the surgery back a number of times and made the siblings feel discouraged and depressed.

Each time they approached the surgery date, illness would strike and the surgery would be pushed back.

Emma said it was difficult to see her sister depressed and sick when they had been so hopeful.

“It sucked. It was a tough time for all of us, it was so hard to see her so sick and to have to wait all over again,” Emma said.

Lexie said having the surgery pushed back again and again was really discouraging, and described the time waiting as “pretty terrible.”

“We would get excited and then I would get sick and it would be cancelled. It was really disheartening,” Lexie said.

Emma said everyone tried to keep moving forward as best as they could.

READ MORE: Hope restored: Sylvan Lake resident receives kidney donation from younger sister

The final surgery date of July 10, 2019 was pushed up by a week due to a cancellation.

The Libby family was told the surgery date was moved up around Canada Day and, though the family was excited there were nerves associated with another sudden change in plans.

“We panicked at first, we weren’t ready for the surgery to be earlier,” Emma said, adding family members had taken time off work to be in Edmonton with the sisters during and after the surgery.

“I think we were just all ready to get it done at that point though.”

Half way through Lexie’s surgery, the kidney donated by Emma started working.

When a patient receives a kidney donation, it often comes from a deceased and can take a couple days for the kidney to begin functioning in the new body.

To have the kidney begin to function while still in surgery was a “big deal,” Lexie says.

“I have gone a really long time without a functioning kidney. It was already beginning to remove waste and produce urine and that is just… it’s amazing,” Lexie said.

The day following the surgery, Lexie, feeling better than she had in a long time, went to see her sister who was not feeling well after the surgery.

For Lexie, it was difficult to see her sister to see her younger sister sick and in pain after helping her.

“She was so healthy going into the surgery and to see her like that, it was tough. She looked like she was in a lot of pain,” Lexie said.

For Emma, however, it was exciting to see Lexie looking healthy.

Emma says she doesn’t remember much from the first day or two after surgery, but she does remember that Lexie looked much better than she had in a long time.

“I wasn’t able to go to her as quickly as I thought I would… but she came to me. She had really good colour and looked so much better,” Emma said.

The kidney donation has been life changing for both Emma and Lexie.

After eight weeks of recovery, Emma is back at work and taking classes at Red Deer College with the hope of becoming a nurse.

For Lexie, she says the change has been “miraculous.”

She says the successful surgery has changed her perspective on life.

“I was in a really dark place at one point… It’s way different now. I see things with more potential,” she said.

Having a functioning kidney is helping Lexie achieve her dreams, which she says sound minor compared to many others.

Now she is able to work a full-time job and stand on her own two feet.

“Going after a job where I can work the whole day is a dream for me,” Lexie said.

Lexie and Emma hope their story will encourage others to sign their donor card, and to help others in need.

“This completely changed my life, and I want that for anyone else who is going through something like what I went through,” said Lexie.

More information about becoming an organ and tissue donor can be found at myhealth.alberta.ca

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