Man donates kidney to his twin brother in Winston-Salem

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- It's an act of brotherly love you may only see once in your life.

Jose and Nicolas Figueroa are identical twins. Jose was in a car crash when he was five years old, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. The wreck resulted in various health complications throughout his life, including kidney failure that began five years ago.

But Jose is now able to live pain-free again, with a new kidney, all thanks to his twin brother.

"It was the right thing to do," Nicolas said. "There was no doubt in my mind. Ever."

Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem told Nicolas that, because he and Jose are identical twins, their kidneys were also identical, which meant a transplant would be seamless.

"When they told me that there was a perfect match where it would be essentially like my own original kidneys, it felt like winning the lottery for sure," Jose said.

Nicolas said he was immediately willing to donate his kidney to his twin.

"It was just an amazing discovery for me," Nicolas said. "To be able to help him change his life. It was just incredible."

Dr. Robert J. Stratta, Director of the Abdominal Organ Transplant Program at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, performed Jose's surgery.

Although his clinic performs a kidney or pancreas transplant almost every day, he said he has only performed three twin-to-twin kidney transplants in the last decade.

"It's a little bit like hitting the jackpot," Dr. Stratta said. "Because not only are you getting a living donor kidney, you're getting an identical kidney."

Dr. Stratta explained that, sometimes, with kidney transplants, the recipient has to take medication throughout his or her life to make sure the body does not reject the new kidney.

"But with identical twins, because they share a genetic identity, the organ is recognized as self rather than non-self," he said. "So there's no need to take medications long term to prevent what we call rejection."

The transplant was a little more than two weeks ago, and both twins said they have fully recovered.

"As far as an emotional state, I've already seen Jose just a little bit more alive," Nicolas said. "The look in his eye, the color in his face."

Jose said Nicolas has always been supportive in helping him through life.

"He helped me overcome many obstacles growing up, not being able to walk," Jose said.

Now, Nicolas has successfully helped Jose through another obstacle.

"He can have a normal life because of this," Nicolas said. "So I feel absolutely great."

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