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After 20 years, woman gives a kidney to her identical twin

Deanda Montoya has hoped for years that she could help save her identical twin Denise, who has been kept alive the past two years by dialysis after two unsuccessful kidney transplants.

Now 20, Deanda has donated one of her kidneys. "We were wanting to do it when we were, like, 9 years old, but they said we couldn't do it," Denise said Thursday.The law wouldn't allow it until Deanda was 18. Dr. Antonia Harford, who has cared for Denise for 10 years, said only an adult can make the necessary "informed consent" decision for kidney donation.

And then the birth of Deanda's two children over the past three years delayed it. Both sisters hope the Jan. 29 transplant will be Denise's last.

That's almost a guarantee, said Dr. Bijan Eghtesad, who performed Denise's surgery along with Dr. William Hecker.

"With truly identical twins, it's just like being in the same body," Eghtesad said.

The first successful kidney transplant in the country involved identical twins in Boston in 1954, he said.

Denise and Deanda left University Hospital for home Wednesday afternoon with family members and a cart of flowers and stuffed animals. The 7 1/2-hour surgery left the twins in pain afterward, but Deanda said it was all worth it.

Denise was diagnosed with renal failure at birth. Her first transplant lasted two years before her body rejected it, the second transplant four years. That kidney was removed two years ago, leaving Denise at the mercy of dialysis, a painful, 2 1/2-hour blood-exchange process that left her exhausted.

The ordeal meant she missed out on a lot. She didn't get to graduate with her high school class, and she hasn't been able to hold a regular job. She lives with her grandparents.

But now, she said, she will finish high school and hopes to attend college. Asked what she wanted most to do, she said: "Probably travel. Anywhere."