Sister gives brother with failing kidney the ultimate gift

Spring break means recovery time for a local woman who did something for her brother that will change both their lives forever. 

A teacher and mother of three from Howell is spending her spring break  pain recovering after she gave the most generous gift possible - one her brother will never forget.

Producers' note: Some images shown in this report are graphic. 

This is a life changing day for Carol Holmes, the 48-year-old teacher from Howell is about to give her brother, her kidney. 

"I'm nervous but I'm also excited that my brother will have a better quality of life," Holmes said.

Haunted by kidney failure for most of his adult life, John Emmendorfer, 52, knew this day would come.  

"I was diagnosed 25 years ago," he said. "So we knew eventually this would be coming."

John has been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, which have grown so unbearably large with cysts that one had to be removed.

"The normal size kidney is about the size of you fist mine this one was about the size of two, two liter bottles of pop," John said of his kidney, which was failing.

When doctors told him his only option was a kidney transplant,  his little sister was first in line. The first step was making sure she was the same blood type, O-positive.  

"I called him right then, and I said 'Yep I'm O-positive just like you,'" Carol said. "It was from that point on, that I just thought this was what was going to work. I remember that conversation with him. 

"I said it was going to happen."

And after extensive physical and psychological testing, Carol donated her kidney to John with the help of transplant surgeons at St. John Hospital in Detroit go to work on Carol, carefully cutting away her healthy kidney. 

Here's a quick anatomy lesson:

"Your kidney is protected by your last two ribs," said Dr. Darla Granger of St. John Hospital.

Our kidneys naturally sit above the belly button but as Granger, the director of transplant at St. John Hospital explains, the new kidney will end up in a very different place. 

"It goes really close to the bladder," she said. "Your pelvic bone sits right here where your seat belt goes across where his seat belt would." 

After the healthy kidney is removed from Carol,  doctors quickly work to flush out any toxins. Then it's John's turn. 

It will take surgeons a couple of hours to transplant the kidney. This is what has to happen:

"We're connecting the artery so the blood gets into the kidney," Granger said. "You are connecting the veins so the blood can go out of the kidney. It comes down and acts as a big filter ... so you're able to pee out all the stuff you're supposed to."

"She's a part of me now," John quipped after the surgery. 

Two days after surgery, John and Carol are both recovering and feeling optimistic through the pain. 

FOX 2: "What is your biggest concern?"

"Really it's just that I don't reject the kidney," John said. "So I do everything possible so that the kidney can function the way it's supposed to."

It takes two major surgeries, a team of nurses and doctors and modern medical know-how to give John his new lease on life.

But to Granger, the real hero is Carol.

 "Keeping the body from rejecting it is the more challenging part of it," Granger said. "Still, I'm in awe every single day that someone like Carol would do this for someone else. That is what's totally amazing." 

To learn about being a living donor or organ donor, go to

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