Photo: Francia Raisa and Selena Gomez. Source: US Magazine
For a star that shines as bright as Selena Gomez, it is hard to ignore when she’s gone, even for short bit of time. Her fans immediately noticed when she dropped out of the spotlight for a couple of months, which led to unprecedented rumors and even accusations.
It wasn't until September 2017 when Gomez revealed the shocking truth. She was absent because she was recovering from a kidney transplant.
Selena Gomez’s fight with lupus nephritis
Back in 2015, Selena Gomez publicly announced her battle with lupus nephritis, which made her take a year-long break away from the spotlight. At first, the singer-actress didn’t want to accept her condition until it took a serious toll on her overall health. Not only did she need to go through all of the physical challenges, but she also had to deal with anxiety and depression that made her take the break. Quite recently, while attending The Weeknd’s concert (her boyfriend at that time), Gomez experienced kidney failure and was rushed to the hospital.
Lupus is a debilitating autoimmune disorder that affects healthy tissues and organs and inflames various parts of the body. When the disease affects the kidneys, the condition is called lupus nephritis, which was what Gomez was battling. In this condition, the kidneys are unable to filter out toxins from the body through urine. As the toxins build up, the kidneys could no longer filter the blood properly, which causes the patient to be very sick. Over time, the kidneys could completely fail, and the patients may suffer from fatalities.
Selena received medications and several follow-up tests to check if her body was responding to them. However, in Selena’s case, the condition was too severe that it pushed her team of doctors to recommend a kidney transplant. It might not have been the safest option, but it was the best one.
For those who considered undergoing the transplant, the major hurdle isn’t really the hospital bills; it is finding a good-hearted donor with the right match. According to the National Kidney Foundation, there are more than 100,000 kidney patients waiting for transplants in the US alone. These statistics also revealed that 3,000 new patients are added to the waitlist every month.
Because there are too many patients waiting for donated kidneys, some patients end up on their deathbed. On average, about 13 people expire each day while they’re waiting for the life-saving transplant. However, this doesn’t mean that help is not available. In fact, more than 17,000 kidney transplants were conducted in the US in 2014. Most of the donated kidneys are from deceased patients, although approximately 1/3 are from the living ones.
The median wait time for a kidney donation varies from patient to patient. Although most patients have to wait for an average of 3.6 years, the time could be shorter or longer depending on compatibility, the health of both the patient and donor and, of course, the availability of organs. As for Selena, her doctors estimated a length of 7 to 10 years, if she is to wait in line. Lucky for her, a dear friend took the courage to become her living kidney donor.
Francia and Selena’s friendship withstood the test of lupus
Selena’s fight with lupus nephritis was a life and death battle. If not for her friend, Francia Raisa, she couldn’t have survived her debilitating lupus condition. Francia and Selena’s friendship started in 2008 at a Children’s Hospital with other Disney and ABC Family stars. They established an instant connection, which led to the strong friendship that they have now.
Francia calls Selena her little sister because of their four-year gap. However, there doesn’t seem to be any ‘gap’ in their friendship due to this. Selena also calls her sister as well as some other best friends in the industry. Since then, the American Actress and the Pop Star have had such a strong bond even though they’re not related by blood.
Like Selena, Francia Raisa is also a well-known American actress. She began her acting and modeling career since she was in junior high school but had a rough start. Eventually, she had her first break in Bring It On: All or Nothing. She also played a main role in the ABC Family Drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Now, Francia stars in the show Grown-ish, which further skyrocketed her career.
Both ladies have been in support of each other since the advent of their own careers. Nonetheless, they have grown closer to each other when Francia decided to donate her own kidney to her best friend. What led her to the decision is the simple fact that she didn’t want to see her sister in so much pain and helpless. She felt sorry for that one time when Selena couldn’t open a bottle because of her condition, as well as many other instances. As a result, she decided to have herself screened for cancer and infection and undergo multiple blood tests to know if she’s a match for Selena. Turns out, she is.
Risk of kidney donation: The healing process for the donor
Donating her kidney came with heavy risks to Francia. After a successful operation late in 2017, Francia found herself unable to do even the basic chores of getting up by herself, taking a bath, drinking coffee, and walking with her dog. She always had somebody to help her out, which she considered a humbling yet frustrating experience. Francia did nothing but rest and let her body recover for two long months.
Prior to the kidney donation, Francia was aware that she had to be intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually ready. Just like any other major surgery, giving away one’s kidney involves risks. Some common surgical complications include blood loss, blood clots, infection, allergic reactions, pneumonia, and death. Although rare, donating a kidney may also heighten the donor’s long-term risk for hypertension, hernia, organ impairment or failure and death. These risks are heavy, so transplant candidates have to be firm in their decisions.
Currently, there is no long-term study on the overall risks of becoming a living kidney donor. However, the American Transplant Foundation notes that it is generally low. Still, the risk differs from one donor to another, so the surgery should be discussed thoroughly with the team of doctors who’ll handle the operation.
The kidney donor usually stays in the hospital for 3 to 7 days for surgery and recovery. They are also highly advised to take a few weeks or months off from work and refrain from traveling and doing physically exhausting activities after the surgery. Typically, it takes 4 to 6 weeks for these donors to attain full recovery. During this time, they are advised to eat nutritious food and take as much rest as possible. Although the donor can already go to work after a week or two, they are still required to take things slowly and rest a lot for recovery.
No one can ever set a boundary to what friendship can do to people. In the experience of Selena and Francia, friendship involves the willingness to donate an organ and to face the possibility of death just to save a friend’s life. Now, there is still no certainty that Selena will never have lupus symptoms again, but there’s only a menial 3 to 5 percent chance that it will. The battle continues for Selena and all other patients with lupus.