A kidney for Christmas

Published 5:55 pm Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cynthia Edwards (left) has a new lease on life thanks to transplanted kidney that came from her twin sister, Natalie Grant (right). The sisters are shown here in the waiting room of Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital along with Grant’s daughter, Aniya. Photo by Candace Matthews

By Candace Matthews


RICH SQUARE – The holidays are fast approaching. What are you getting your family this year? Chances are you won’t be able to top one local women’s astounding gift to her sister, or what the duo believe was originally a gift from the heavens.

This year, Natalie Grant gave her sister, Cynthia Edwards, the perfect gift: a new kidney. This gift put an end to Cynthia’s 12-year battle with Nephrotic Syndrome and saved her life.

Grant and Edwards are the children of Robert and Elizabeth Daniels of Hexlena in Bertie County. The sisters were always close, ever since the 15 minutes that separated them at birth. The twin girls saw each other through many good times and bad ones as well.

In 2000, Edwards started to notice severe swelling in her knees. She visited Ahoskie Primary Care to find the source of her problem. APC referred their patient to doctors inVirginia and told her she may have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Virginia doctors broke the sad news that it was actually kidney disease. They took two biopsies, but were never able to find the cause of the problem.

Edwards was later admitted to the hospital for more tests and procedures. After six months, Nephrologist Dr. Greg Warren of Elizabeth City gave Edwards the definitive diagnosis: Nephrotic Syndrome.

Nephrotic Syndrome is a kidney disorder that causes too much protein to be lost in the urine. Damage to the kidneys is irreversible. Treatment options focus on slowing down the kidney damage and relieving symptoms like swelling. Edwards says that most people with the disorder do not live very long. Everyone was surprised at how slow her problem progressed. Even with medication, no one expected her kidneys to last as long as they did. When her kidneys started to fail she began dialysis. Edwards broke the news to Grant that she needed a kidney soon.

Grant says that the decision to save her sister’s life was an obvious one. No one knew her mother was carrying twins while she was pregnant with the pair. It was not until delivery that Grant was discovered.

“That was my deciding factor,” Grant noted. “It really made me comfortable doing this, maybe I was there for a reason.”

Edwards elaborated, “God puts everyone here for a purpose; she felt like she would be letting God down if she didn’t do this.”

Duke University Medical Center took over from there. On Oct. 15 of this year, Grant and Edwards went in to surgery for the kidney transplant. The medical procedure took around three hours to complete and their family supported them from the waiting room.

Both Edwards and Grant are mothers. They each spoke about the strength their own mother must have. Of all of the family in the hospital during the surgery, their brother said it was their mother who was the strongest. All of her children were proud of the way she carried herself during such a trying time, when both of her girls were under the knife. Neither could imagine the anxiety she felt.

Following the surgery, Grant remained hospitalized for two days and Edwards for five. Both women applauded the staff at DUMC. They felt well cared for and were impressed with the team-oriented approach to patient care.

Edwards then had to return to the medical center every two weeks for tests. As of December 2012 she has done so well on the tests that she only has to return once a month for the next year for progress checks.

“I thank God for my twin,” Edwards explains. “We were close back when and now I call her my hero. She don’t feel like she is a hero, but she gave me a second chance at life. I could have waited on dialysis until a kidney came along, but I thank God she was willing to do that for me.”

Both girls thank their mother for helping take care of them. Edwards says “mom took me to every single dialysis appointment. She took care of me when I first came home, and until I could start driving she drove me everywhere.” Edwards’ 15 year-old daughter, Megan Edwards, took over her care later. Grant’s husband, Warren Grant, and 9 year- old daughter, Aniya Grant, were very supportive in her home.

Both sisters have recovered well and report no major problems since surgery. Both have begun to live normal lives again. Grant has returned to work and Edwards recently began driving for herself again.

Grant wants to encourage others to consider organ donation.

“They (doctors) told me I wouldn’t have to change my life style at all. I wasn’t taking any medications before and don’t take any now,” she said.

Grant’s surgery was done laparoscopically, which is much less invasive and speeds up recovery time. Grant also adds “from the donor perspective I was nervous, but once you go through it you know it is something good for people to do because you can function on one kidney.”

Edwards even says she met a woman while at Duke that was 50 years old and had had several children, all while only having one kidney. Edwards informs us also that if something were to happen to a kidney donor, and they need a kidney, they are bumped up to the top of the waiting list to receive one.

Edwards hopes that if someone else out there is having a similar problem that they will find hope in her story.

“Stay strong and keep your faith and it will happen,” Edwards affirms.

The family has remained close despite living in neighboring towns. Edwards currently resides in Rich Square while Grant lives in Roanoke Rapids. Edwards’ son, Alan Miller, is currently in Greensboro pursing a graduate degree. Grant’s oldest daughter, Brittany Newsome, is also pursuing school in Greensboro and her son, Joshua Newsome, lives in Roanoke Rapids. Grant and Edwards also have a brother, Eric Daniels, in Newport News, VA.

The family will be getting together for the holidays in Rich Square. Their mother will be reading them each special letters she wrote to them while the family is together on Christmas. She had been saving the letters to her daughters for a special time when all of the family could be present.

Edwards says “this will be the best Christmas in 12 years because I am healthy and we have that to give God praise for, for allowing that to take place now.”