Valley Falls — A pair of Valley Falls sisters were never really that close until four years ago when Melissa Penry had a baby.
Since then their bond has strengthened, and in just more than a week they'll become even tighter when Penry goes under the knife to donate one of her kidneys to her younger sister.
Meloni Montgomery has been experiencing kidney problems since she was 9 and has taken medication since then to treat high blood pressure.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Montgomery has had to undergo dialysis three times a week for the past year because of in-stage renal failure, and the 20-year-old has been told she needed a kidney transplant.
She said other relatives have been identified as potential matches to donate a kidney, but for several reasons her sister turned out to be the best match.
"There was never a doubt in my mind that I would at least try (to donate a kidney)," Penry said. "I'm her only sibling. I'm all she's got."
The Dec. 7 surgery will be the first time Penry has had a major medical procedure. It didn't help her nerves any when a physician recently told her what to expect.
"He said, 'I'm not going to lie to you. It's going to be painful,'" she said. "But he just kept saying, 'You're a hero, you're a hero.'"
Despite the seriousness of the operation, the sisters have kept a sense of humor. While driving home from a consultation visit at University of Kansas Medical Center, they kept seeing a silver sports car with "Fletcher" on the personalized tag.
"I told her we should just call it (the kidney) Fletcher," Montgomery said.
The name stuck, and the two had T-Shirts and bracelets made that say "Team Fletcher."
Montgomery is expected to be recovered enough in January to start nursing school at Washburn University in Topeka. She said she wants to help other people the way she was helped throughout her fight with kidney disease.
"Everybody tells me I have patience, that I can see others' point of view," Montgomery said. "I just want to help people. That's what I really want to do."