While Ann Wilson's search for a new kidney started in May, her younger brother recently learned that he needs a different organ to survive.
Arthur Wilson, who is also a professional singer, recently was diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a genetic disorder that occurs from low protein levels in the blood system and can cause lung disease in adults.
The Augusta resident started experiencing symptoms -- beginning as a persistent cough -- in 1999 as he was returning home from Italy, where he sang as the cantor for the High Latin Mass at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II.
After years of misdiagnoses and worsening symptoms, including spouts of pneumonia, doctors finally gave Arthur Wilson a CT scan and blood test that revealed the illness. The upper lobe of his right lung has deteriorated completely, and the rest of his lungs are riddled with holes. The 51-year-old was given three years to live if he didn't have a lung transplant.
Despite needing an oxygen tank, Arthur remains true to his passion -- singing.
"People don't know I'm sick when I sing," he said.
Arthur started singing as a boy and performed with The Augusta Opera for 19 years. He sings as one of Georgia's 3 Tenors in Augusta.
Ann Wilson, of Martinez, said she's very thankful that she and her brother have each other and a strong support system of family and caring friends nearby.
"We cry together a lot right now," she said. "We're here for each other."
She said she constantly receives cards from people telling her that the siblings are on their prayer list.
Ann's kidney disease has left her right kidney inoperable and her left kidney functioning at 15 percent.
For years, Ann's kidney functions have remained stable, but her levels started to decline this year. That prompted doctors to recommend dialysis for the 61-year-old. Ann told them dialysis wouldn't fit her lifestyle and opted to find a donor.
Five friends have offered to donate a kidney for her. Out looks to be a promising candidate, and Ann will soon find out if she's a match.
"I never knew what a roller coaster ride it is," she said.
Arthur and Ann want to raise awareness about their disorders.
Arthur said Alpha-1 can be quickly detected by a simple blood test. Ann wants others to know that kidney donors need only the same blood type as the recipient.
The surgery, she said, is performed at no cost to the donor.
In coming weeks, Arthur hopes to be put on the lung transplant list. He's also considering becoming part of a study in Charleston, S.C., testing a drug for the disorder.
Ann is optimistic that she could have a new kidney by Thanksgiving.
Because many people choose to name their kidney after undergoing surgery, she said she has the perfect name already selected.
"I may have to name it Turkey," she said. "I'd be thankful to do that."
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