Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 9, 2014

A gift, with love

Younger sister donates kidney to ailing sibling

By Judy Wakefield

---- — Two years ago, MacKenzie Dias watched as an older sister, Ashley, who was born with cystic fibrosis, waited on a lung transplant donor list for organs that never came.

Before Ashley Dias could receive a double lung transplant — her second in about 10 years — the 26-year-old graduate of Andover High School died June 14, 2012 at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio with her youngest sister and other family members by her bedside.

So when the oldest of the Dias sisters, Lindsey, who was also born with cystic fibrosis, found herself in the hospital this winter awaiting her second kidney transplant, MacKenzie was determined to see that she received the life-saving surgery.

On Tuesday, MacKenzie Dias donated her kidney to her sister.

Just hours after the surgery, performed at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, mother Marylynne Dias of Andover was positive about the results.

“Everything went so well,” Marylynne Dias said, adding she was hopeful her daughters could be released from the hospital as soon this Thursday.

In an email prior to the surgery, MacKenzie Dias said she was not about to watch her sister Lindsey suffer the same fate as sister Ashley.

“Yes, I am incredibly relieved. It’s been a long and tiring journey, but I was determined to save my sister’s life. I saw my other sister wait on a list for lungs that never came. I wasn’t letting that happen to Lindsey,” MacKenzie Dias wrote.

With both Lindsey and Ashley Dias born three years apart with cystic fibrosis, the family has been no stranger to transplant surgeries.

Cystic fibrosis is a recessive, multi-system genetic disease that leads to thick deposits of mucus in the lungs as well as several other symptoms throughout the body. Often lung, kidney, pancreas and liver transplants are needed to improve quality of life.

MacKenzie Dias, who graduated from Andover High School in 2009, shares her family’s story on her blog:

“I write about my journey as the healthy child in a family of illness and that helps me and helps others. It has a big viewing audience,” she said of the blog, adding she will be preparing a video documenting the transplant procedure to post on the site in the coming days.

When Lindsey Dias received her double lung transplant at the age of 15, MacKenzie Dias says her mother and father, Bruce Dias, now of Tewksbury, made medical history as the first parents to ever donate double lobes of lung to their child.

Three years later, also at the age of 15, middle sister Ashley Dias received her double lung transplant with her aunts as donors.

Both sisters then developed diabetes, requiring kidney transplants, with aunts once again stepping forward as donors.

Following the kidney transplants, both girls led fairly normal lives. But in 2011 when Ashley Dias started getting lung infections, her mother knew something was wrong. She needed a second lung transplant. She died the next year before she could receive the organs.

Then this past November, Lindsey Dias returned to the hospital, initially for deep wounds on her heel that would not heal, according to her sister’s blog. Hyperbaric chamber treatment proved unsuccessful and an infection followed. The 2001 Tewksbury High School graduate who, according to her Facebook page, has studied health at UMass Lowell and Boston, had been waiting several weeks for sister MacKenzie’s kidney to be transplanted.

The wait ended on Tuesday.

MacKenzie Dias said on Monday she would do whatever it took to make sure her sister Lindsey’s story stays positive and see that she gets healthy again.

“I love my sister,” MacKenzie simply wrote. “I just love her.”