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North Hills

Hampton graduate gives kidney to her twin sister

| Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Lindsey and Laura Swain, 20, both Hampton graduates, have an unbreakable bond.
Lindsey and Laura Swain, 20, both Hampton graduates, have an unbreakable bond.
Laura Swain (left) thanked her twin sister, Lindsey for “saving her life” after the 20-year-old sisters’ transplant surgeries on Aug. 4 in Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Laura Swain (left) thanked her twin sister, Lindsey for “saving her life” after the 20-year-old sisters’ transplant surgeries on Aug. 4 in Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Hampton High School graduates Laura and Lindsey Swain have more in common than most identical twins.

The 20-year-old sisters share Lindsey's original pair of kidneys.

“It's like we're partners, Lindsey said. “We're like one individual.”

When a routine blood test in March revealed Laura's advanced renal failure, Lindsey immediately offered to give Laura a new kidney.

Their mother discouraged the donation, but Lindsey, one of four siblings, insisted on being Laura's living donor.

“I didn't want to see someone that I love be on a list for so long, and I knew from the beginning that I was going to be a perfect match,” Lindsey said.

Laura, a sophomore at Mercyhurst University remembers visiting Lindsey's adjacent hospital room after the twins' separate transplant surgeries on Aug. 4 at Allegheny General Hospital on Pittsburgh's North Side.

“I actually went in her room and cried,” Laura said.

“You saved my life,” she told Lindsey.

Lindsey's gift of her left kidney also tightened the twins' bond.

“It definitely brought us closer together,” said Lindsey, a sophomore at Slippery Rock University. “I mean, we were in the same classes from kindergarten through high school and we were kind of sick of each other, so we both went to different colleges. Now we talk more than we did. ... We ‘Facetime' a lot. We text a lot.”

After her transplant operation, physicians identified the cause of Laura's renal failure — focal segmental glomerulosclerois, or FSGS.

“She never felt sick or anything,” said Carolyn Swain of Brookline, the twins' mother.

But the FSGS continues to pose challenges while Laura's doctors try different ways to treat the auto-immune disorder, a disease which leads one's immune system to develop antibodies that harm healthy cells.

Before Thanksgiving, Laura spent 13 days in Allegheny General Hospital with pneumonia.

“My main goal is to get back to school,” said Laura.

Laura plans to major in early childhood education, but she took off this semester to recover from her kidney transplant surgery.

“I sleep a lot,” she said. “I do coloring.”

Laura said she also shops online.

“I do retail therapy,” she said.

Since becoming her sister's kidney donor, Lindsey has decided to shift her academic path at Slippery Rock and pursue a career in health care.

“At first, I was going for athletic training,” said Lindsey, who played on Hampton High School's varsity basketball team. “I'm still going for athletic training,” Lindsey said. “But the end goal is to become a physician's assistant.”

Laura and Lindsey Swain also are the daughters Kevin Swain of McCandless. The twins' siblings are Brian Swain, 22, of Shadyside, and Kevin Swain, 23, of Green Tree, also graduates of Hampton High School.

Terri Koprivnikor, a guidance counselor at the school, well remembers the Swain family. News of Lindsey's gift to Laura didn't surprise Koprivnikor.

“If Lindsey hadn't been a match, Brian or Kevin would have been the next ones (living donors) to be tested,” she said.

Karen Wheeler, secretary to the assistant principal of Hampton High School, also remembers the Swain twins.

“As sisters they were extremely supportive of each other,” Wheeler said. “When Lindsey played basketball, Laura was always at the games.”

Deborah Deasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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