Todd Conner, right, and his sister Lori Christian, bottom, donated their kidneys to their younger brother Allen Conner.
Allen Conner literally owes his life to his two siblings. The 36-year-old Conyers man recently underwent his second kidney transplant. He received his first new kidney at age 2 from his then 16-year-old brother Todd Conner. Thirty-three years later, sister Lori Ann Christian, 51, has given her kidney to her younger brother.
"I'm thankful to be alive. If it wasn't for them, I'd still be on dialysis," Conner said.
Conner's battle with kidney problems began in 1975 just six weeks after his birth. Doctors at Egleston Children's Hospital determined that one kidney didn't develop and the other suffered severe damage from a malfunction in the valves leading to the bladder.
As a baby and toddler, Allen emptied his bladder through a hole in his stomach, and reverted from walking to crawling because rickets made his legs weak. To combat the lack of nutrition that caused the rickets, his mother Carolyn Conner put a tube down his throat three times a day to feed him.
"We were at Egleston so much. The (other) children just couldn't stand it because he was sick so much," Carolyn Conner said.
Surgery to correct the valve problem only allowed Allen a few months of good health and by January 1978, doctors informed the family he needed a new kidney.
Big brother Todd volunteered his kidney. Todd said the only way he could have been a closer match to his brother for a kidney donation would have been if they were twins.
"It was my brother, my baby brother," said Todd Conner of his reason for donating. "If I could do it, that's what I was going to do."
After a successful transplant at 36 months old, Allen grew up a healthy child. He played soccer and even football, and graduated from high school. He married and worked as a landscaper.
Allen's new kidney lasted a miraculous three decades, but a few years ago, kidney-related health problems emerged. He lost 40 pounds over a three-year period, and in 2010, doctors put Allen on dialysis.
Doctors recommended another transplant and several of Allen's younger relatives --cousins, nieces and nephews in their 20s and 30s --volunteered to be tested. None matched his blood type well enough.
Sister Lori suggested donating hers but her family cautioned against it because she struggled with thyroid and hormone health problems.
"I understood all of that but I finally said, 'Look, he's my brother, he's going down fast. If you don't do something soon, you'll come home and he won't be here,"' Lori said.Lori approached Allen.
"I just made up mind. I went to Allen and I said 'Do you want it or not?' and he looked at me and he knew what I meant and he said 'yes,'" Lori said.
In late November, the family traveled to the University of Minnesota Medical Center, where Allen had undergone his first transplant, and on Dec. 1 the operation took place.
Lori said doctors had to put her kidney on ice for 45 minutes because they had trouble finding a vein in Allen strong enough to hold a needle for anesthesia.
Both did well through the surgery and are recovering at their respective homes in Conyers. In two months, the family will know if Allen's body will reject or accept Lori's kidney.
"It's awesome that you can give your brother a part of you and it's something you don't know how to describe or how you'll feel until you go through it," said Lori.
"When you can give somebody something you have to keep them alive, it's an experience you'll never forget."