Sister Gives Brother a Christmas Gift (of Life) To Remember 

Christmas came early for Kevin O'Connor, who has lived with polycystic kidney disease his entire life. He received a kidney from his sister on Christmas Eve.

Mary Bauer had known for years that this day would come. The fact that it came on Christmas Eve was just a bonus. "It's just kind of funny that it worked out that way," she tells us.

Symbolic timing aside, the lifesaving kidney donation that Mary gave her younger brother, Kevin O'Connor, at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus the day before Christmas is a gift he'll always remember and be grateful for. "I really can't put it into words," Kevin tells us. "There's no doubt there's a stronger bond between us now. And there's no question every Dec. 24 from now on will be special and a great new memory for us."

As KIMT 3 News reports, last November the polycystic kidney disease Kevin had been born with reached its peak. "My kidney function finally deteriorated to a level where I'd qualify for a kidney transplant," he tells us. "So my nephrologist in the Twin Cities offered to give me a referral to any transplant program I wanted, and I chose Mayo Clinic."

A few weeks later, Kevin was in Rochester to begin his multi-day testing process. "I had to go through a detailed scan of everything to make sure I was a good candidate," he says. "That's why Mayo's so successful with their transplants. They're very detailed from the start."

Kevin tells us his care team was very straightforward about his situation. "After I was approved for a transplant, I was added to the waiting list for a deceased donor," he tells us. "But since that could be a lengthy wait, they suggested that if I had potential living donors, I start contacting them."

He began with an email and letter to Mary at her home in Phoenix. "She knew everything that was going on because we'd kept in touch throughout the process," Kevin says. "She never thought twice about getting tested. She responded immediately."

For Mary, it was never a question of if she'd give her brother a kidney, but when. "Barring a cure for PKD, we knew this day would come," she tells us. "God blessed me with two healthy kidneys, I only need one, and so in my mind it was, 'Why wouldn't I do this for Kevin if our doctors determined I could?'"

So before dawn on Christmas Eve, brother and sister checked in to Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester donning matching Christmas stockings and full of holiday hope and cheer. "We were both in great spirits," Kevin says. "There was never any fear or anxiety. Not even as we were being wheeled into our respective operating rooms. It was a very comfortable, calm atmosphere from start to finish."

With an outcome, thanks to transplant surgeon Mikel Prieto, M.D., and team, that Kevin says exceeded his expectations. "I feel great right now," he tells us. "There's still some discomfort and an ongoing healing process, but I'm amazed that everything's going as well as it is. I'm seeing more improvement and feeling better every day."

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