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A gift of life

When Megan Holosko was a toddler she never suspected the cousin who doted and cared for her would, one day, see her looking after him. But that's exactly what happened.

When Megan Holosko was a toddler she never suspected the cousin who doted and cared for her would, one day, see her looking after him.

But that’s exactly what happened.

On Monday, Holosko donated a kidney to Billy Huebschwerlen, her cousin.

They are both resting comfortably in hospital. Huebschwerlen’s kidney is said to be functioning just the way it should be and Holosko is as positive as ever.

Recently Holosko, 22, discovered her blood type perfectly matched Huebschwerlen, 30.

She decided she would donate a kidney to him. Huebschwerlen had been waiting for a kidney transplant for six years.

Without Holosko, he’d still be waiting another five to 10 years.

Huebschwerlen was a happy kid Holosko shared pranks and fun with. He was also one of those kids in Carcross Community School who, in 1994, became a peer youth tutor and role model. Weekly, he’d tutor the younger student he was matched with, helping him develop his reading skills.

As years went by, Huebschwerlen and Holosko continued to be close. She’d go fishing and he’d come check her catch. They’d spend time together with their Grandma Marg, whom they both love dearly.

But then Huebschwerlen grew up.

He walked the fine line so many youth do of trying to stay straight, but failing. Life was a rock ‘n’ roll ride of substance abuse that too many youth experience and don’t shake.

Soon Huebschwerlen was in trouble.

For six years, Huebschwerlen was on kidney dialysis. He’d been waiting for a kidney transplant all this time. He desperately needed a donor that would match his rare blood type. No one was found.

Then Holosko, who is hoping to study massage therapy this year, found out she was a match for Huebschwerlen.

She’d watched the trials her cousin had gone through and decided to donate her kidney.

“He’s too young to be on dialysis,” says Holosko. “He has so many future plans. Now he can barely come home and visit his family as he has dialysis every four days.”

Holosko worries about Huebschwerlen, too. She doesn’t think his friends understand.

“So many are into substance abuse and the bar scene. It’s so hard. So many people just don’t care.”

Last year, Huebschwerlen came up to visit his family. “People would say, ‘Hey Billy, want to sober drive for me. Want to come to the bar?’” says Holosko, who just shakes her head when talk turns to the pressure to use alcohol and drugs.

“I’d rather not see him around that stuff,” she says. “He deserves better. He wants to travel and to study.”

Outside kids get together for sober dances and gatherings - alcohol and drugs are not part of the social occasion, she adds.

Huebschwerlen has been studying to be a counsellor knowing what he’s going through could be of help to youth.

He’d like to set up a treatment centre in the future.

Holosko knows substance abuse just makes things worse.

When her stepfather died a few years ago, she went that route, but only briefly, realizing that masking her pain did not solve anything.

So for her deciding to give Huebschwerlen one of her kidneys is something she knew and felt was important and definitely she wanted to do.

On March 15, a fundraising dinner in Carcross collected more than $3,500 to help the family go to Vancouver to be with Huebschwerlen and Holosko for the kidney transplant.

For this, the family of Huebschwerlen and Holosko thank everyone who donated.

On April 4, Holosko donated her kidney to Huebschwerlen at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. It was a 3.5-hour surgery.

She will be in the hospital about a week. Huebschwerlen will stay in hospital much longer and have to stay in Vancouver for some time to monitor the transplant and ensure its success.

“We will all hope for the best,” says Holosko.

Circle prayers from the Carcross/Tagish First Nations, sweat lodges and personal friends continue to be sent to this young woman and her cousin.