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Siblings In San Antonio Receive Kidneys From The Same Donor On The Same Day

Bonnie Petrie
Texas Public Radio
Ava Shepperd, 14, and John Ben Shepperd, 18, received kidney transplants from the same donor on the same day at University Health System Transplant Center.

Teen-aged siblings who were both on a kidney transplant list in San Antonio received organs from the same donor on the same day. 


John Ben Shepperd is 18. His sister Ava is 14. Their father, John, said both of them knew all their lives they would someday need a kidney transplant.

"But we never expected or anticipated they both would get it on the same date," he said.

Both children have a rare, genetic disease called cystinosis, which can cause kidneys to fail. John Ben was on dialysis for two years and on the transplant list at University Health System Transplant Center for a year. Ava was on dialysis since January and on the transplant list for a month. John Ben said they received the call late last week that there was a match for both of them.

"It took me a few minutes to realize they actually had a kidney for both me and my sister. It's a little crazy,” Shepperd said. “I didn't expect that, for sure."

Credit Bonnie Petrie | Texas Public Radio
Ava Shepperd and her mom, Kim Azar-Shepperd, clasp hands while telling their story at University Hospital in San Antonio.

Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, a surgeon at the University Health System Transplant Center, said a situation in which siblings get transplants on the same day from the same donor is exceptionally rare.

"Pediatric patients do get priority, which almost everyone agrees that's the way it should be,” Thomas said, “but the fact that two siblings came up on the list at the same time and they were both matches for this donor is very unique."

John Ben and Ava’s mom, Kim Azar-Shepperd, said they knew there was a small chance it could happen.

"We have been joking for months about ‘wow, we could have the same donor for both of our kids, which would be amazing,’” Azar-Shepperd said, “and it happened."

All they know about the donor, right now, is he or she was young. Azar-Shepperd stressed that she was sorry for donor’s family. But she also said ‘thank you.’ She said their decision to donate gave her kids new life.

John Ben Shepperd will start college in the fall. Ava will enter the eighth grade.

Bonnie Petrie can be reached at Bonnie@TPR.org and on Twitter at @kbonniepetrie.