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A Kidney Donor’s Letter to Her Brother—and His Letter Back

Twenty-seven-year-old Thomas Troutman is awaiting a life-saving kidney transplant. His living kidney donor will be his sister, Kylie Duncan. We asked Thomas and Kylie to write letters to one another explaining what this transplant journey has meant to each of them—this is how they responded.

Dear Thomas…

Since you have been diagnosed with renal failure, every one of us has been worried but had hope that you’ll get through this.

I understand how scary this has been for you.

I remember, a few years ago, you were walking out of the laundry room, and I saw your face: it looked green, and your eyes were almost bulging. I was so scared. I asked if you were okay. You made your way to the couch and called out to Mom. I yelled for her, because I knew it had to be your kidney messing with you.

Mom gave you some water, and the color slowly came back to your face. That was when I knew this was going to be a scary journey for you.

When Mom and Dad told all of us about you possibly needing a kidney transplant in the future, the first thing I said was that you can have one of mine.

I meant that with everything I have.

I’m so glad that I am a match and can help you through this. I hope after our surgeries you’ll feel so much better and be motivated to follow your dreams. You’re so talented, and you need to get your awesome work out there and seen. Our family believes in you so much, and I know that once you’re healed, you’re going to rock the entire world with your music.

The hardest part about all of this is seeing you in pain and isolated because of your diagnosis.

I know it’s taking a toll on your mental health. I’m glad to say that you’re not completely isolated: you go on hikes with your friends and take care of the stray cats at home. You’re so strong for holding on and keeping on. I couldn’t imagine how awful you feel when you’re not feeling well.

I’m so proud to be your sister.

I’m so glad that you’re stronger than your depression. I’m beyond excited to be able to help you feel better. I know how scary it is to have a major surgery and not know the outcome.

That’s the beauty of it, though: we’re both strong.

We’ve all been through a lot, and we’re still here. We both have this! We’re going to heal so well, and I hope that more happiness will enter your life!

Not only are you talented and strong: you’re the most gentle, caring person I know. You care so much about animals and people. You’re always trying to help those in need. The compassion you always show for life is amazing, and you have it for every type of life, Mr. Green Thumb!

I have learned a lot about your diagnosis and try to keep up with any changes that come your way. I learned the most through my research when I did that speech for my college as well as testing and meeting the transplant team. With that being said, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!

You’re going to rise like a phoenix and become the star you were meant to be! I feel it in my gut!

Don’t worry about me. I’ll be just as fine and just as healthy as I am now. I’ll take care of myself, not only for me but for you, for all our loved ones.

You’re amazing, brother. I can’t wait to see you shine!

Love, your sister,


Dear Kylie,

You have been a compassionate person ever since I’ve known you.

The first time I really understood how you were impacted by my diagnosis was when you gave a speech to your college to teach people about being a living donor. Seeing you on the verge of tears, all the while maintaining your composure and speaking about my diagnosis, put a visual to your feelings and emotions regarding my situation. That was very emotional for me, but it also provided me with the strength to carry on.

I didn’t expect that I would be receiving a kidney from you.

At 18, I knew eventually that I would need a kidney, and whether I would have a living donor or deceased donor was hard to process, so I guess I tried to block it out. Fast-forward nine years, in 2021, when I found out that you were a match and that all we had to do now was pick a day.

The fact that you were a match was a good feeling, but it was happening so suddenly—at least that’s how it felt, because the years from 18 to 27 felt like a blur.

I am eternally grateful for this gift you will give me.

I have experienced many emotions through this journey, from depression to happiness for another chance of life, and all the anxiety that comes with it. The risks of you going into surgery have worried me, but I know our angels will make a way—that’s how I’ve kept faith in this situation, along with the support from you and our family.

I believe you are brave—not only for risking your life for mine, but for the way you approach life with struggles of your own.

You are always humble yet courageous despite all the doubts that we sometimes have of ourselves.

The hardest part of this journey has been seeing the impact my illness has had on the ones who love me. Second to that was the effect this disease has had on my physical and mental health and self-worth. But I realized that my health doesn’t define who I am as a person.

This surgery is the start of a new chapter, all thanks to you.

I hope that we both get through this together and live fulfilling and healthy lives—and maybe one day have a story to tell each other’s children.

I also hope you know how much it’s meant to me and how much I aspire to be the intelligent and loving person that you are.

Something that may surprise you to hear from me is that while it takes strength to endure what I have gone through, it takes just as much strength to go through your part of this journey, and you are stronger than you may know.

The word “hope” to me is to believe in the unseen—something to keep, so you stick around for the people who love you.



Thomas and Kylie are fundraising with Help Hope Live for the out-of-pocket costs associated with the gift of life. Follow their story on TikTok.

Written by Emily Progin