Five sisters battle life-threatening disease by sharing organs

DETROIT (WXYZ) - The Simon sisters each had 50 percent chance of having a life-threatening genetic disease. When three of the five women realized they had it, the other two sisters offered them the gift of life.

Kathie Wing, Beth Skorupski and Mary Simon were all diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease 25 years ago. Their two youngest sisters, Joan and Toni, didn't get the disease.

"This is a genetic disease that is passed down from parents," Dr. David Butcher, a transplant nephrologist at St. John Hospital, said. "(There is a) 50 percent chance of getting it."

"The minute I saw those cysts on the ultrasound, I knew. You could see them," remembered Kathie.

Kathie received a kidney from Joan 9 years ago.

The conditions for Beth and Mary both worsened. "We were kind of neck and neck as to who might need a kidney next," Mary told Action News.

Two years ago, Beth beat Mary to the need. She received the gift of life from Toni.

"I thought, 'Ok, I know I need this kidney now. Things are at a certain point, but what's Mary going to do?" remembered Beth.

The sisters banned together, writing letters to friends and relatives asking for a kidney donation for Mary.

"When she called to tell me, we cried," said Mary, recalling how her friend, Kathy Beyer, offered her kidney. "We cried a lot because I couldn't believe she would be that generous to do that for me."

This Christmas much of the family will gather together to say thanks, but not for what is under the tree. "A lot of people talk about organ donation but don't take the next step to sign up to do it," Mary said. "A living donor is absolutely the ultimate gift."

To learn how you can donate, visit Michigan's organ donation website.


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