Sisters Reema and Binn (L-R) are five years apart in age; exactly five years to the day.
"I like to think that I was her favourite birthday gift of all time when I showed up on her fifth birthday," says Reema.
Both sisters admit that with their age gap, they often did not get along. "I was the annoying, younger sister that snuck into her room, loved trying on her clothes and snooping around looking for neat and exciting things," Reema admits.
"We were in different stages of life, and it wasn't till after I got married and moved out that we connected and become best friends." Binn laughs, "Now I can't get rid of her!"
Binn now always has a reminder of her sister: a kidney. Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that resulted in kidney failure, Binn needed a kidney transplant and her younger sister stepped up to donate one of hers.
"The decision to donate a piece of me was easy," Reema says. "If I could give my sister a second chance at life, then absolutely I would do it."
Reema's decision to donate sped the process along, and in February 2018, both sisters were wheeled into separate operating rooms at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver.
Reema compares the journey to an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld.
"There was lots of laughing, meeting people of all kinds who were coming and going, all of whom had a role to play – and I was the guest star," Reema recounts. "Everything went like clockwork and all of a sudden I woke up and my surgeon showed me a picture of my kidney, now working hard in Binn's body." Reema laughs, noting she instructed the doctor to snap a picture of the organ so she could see it.
"I feel so grateful that my sister donated her kidney to me and am amazed by the incredible St. Paul's Hospital medical team," Binn says. "My surgery went really well and so did my recovery."
Both agree that the day is one of the most memorable days in their family's history.
Three years later, both sisters live in the Lower Mainland and volunteer for BC Transplant. "The transplant meant so much to me, volunteering is the least I could do out of gratitude for this gift," explains Binn.
Reema adds that she wants to share her experience and be an active ambassador for the living donor program.
"Our community anchors our values to giving, and what better way to give than by donating an organ," she explains. Their cousin received a heart transplant 17 years ago as well – adding to the inspiration for helping. "We as a community can all benefit from this action of giving. It is such a meaningful experience, one that gives me so much purpose."
The bond and relationship between Reema and Binn could not be stronger – something they did not could foresee as children.
"Reema is a selfless, loving and amazing sister. When she knew I needed a kidney, she said 'Don't worry sis, my kidney is your kidney'," Binn shares. "I am so thankful to my sister, she is my hero!"
Written by: Ryan Uytdewilligen, BC Transplant Volunteer