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'Baby girl' to big brother's rescue

By Johnathan Silver
June 25, 2014 at 1:25 a.m.

Keleigh Grahmann, 21, of Sweet Home, and her brother Dayne Grahmann, 27, of New Braunfels, sit for a portrait in Keleigh's home in Sweet Home on Sunday. When Dayne was diagnosed with a kidney disease in late January, Keleigh decided that if he needed it, she would give a kidney to her brother. After finding out that she was a match for Dayne, she  decided to donate her kidney to him  July 2, when they are scheduled for surgery. "It's a way to give back to him for all that's he's done for me," Keleigh said.

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Dayne Grahmann used to see and treat his little sister like a daughter. Now, she has a new role - "savior."

The 27-year-old New Braunfels man learned he had a kidney disease in 2012, but the organs' functions took a turn for the worse last fall, when he was hospitalized with pancreatitis.

His sister, Keleigh Grahmann, 21, of Sweet Home, has agreed to donate a kidney to help her older brother regain his health.

In January, doctors determined he had complete renal failure. Now, he's on dialysis awaiting surgery scheduled for July 2 at the Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio.

"I'm used to being on top of everything, being No. 1. It's really a gut check," said Grahmann, who has grown accustomed to a gym setting, track and outdoor activities.

He works in quality control in a concrete plant in Seguin.

Self-described as having been "100 percent healthy," he said learning he needed a kidney transplant earlier this year was an overwhelming experience.

"How do you ask someone, 'Can I have a kidney?'" he recalled thinking.

He didn't necessarily have to worry about that, though. Family members were tested to see whether they were matches for a transplant. His sister, Keleigh, a waitress and college student, stepped forward once she knew she was a match.

"I never had a sense of doubt or fear at all," she said, adding that was her position from the moment she learned he might need a new kidney.

Dayne Grahmann recalled breaking down when he found his match.

"Are you sure? Are you sure?" he said.

He recognized the gravity of the situation.

"It's not something people do every day," he said. "It's not something people do in a lifetime. There was no, 'Give me a week to think about it.' It was just, 'I want to do it.'"

He has always been the one to assume leadership roles and act as an anchor with his siblings.

"I've always asked my dad for help. I've never really gone to my brother or sister like they have to me," he said. "It's kind of weird seeing my sister as a savior."

For his sister, his role in her life hasn't changed. She's just helping him get better, she said, preferring the focus to be on her brother's recovery.

"I see him as my heroic, strong brother," she said. "I've always thought of him as invincible. He's my protector."

The two grew up playing outdoors, finding themselves in the fields, at the lake and on anything with four wheels. But it wasn't exactly paradise all the time for the siblings and their brother, Mark Grahmann. Keleigh Grahmann remembered being the victim of her brothers' torment, laughing about the occasional shoving and dismantling of her dolls' heads. Like many sibling rivalries, though, their relationship matured into one in which both relied on each other.

That has come in handy over the years, giving her brother an opportunity to appreciate how his sister has grown and his role in guiding her.

"She's proven herself," he said.

Their father, Paul Grahmann, of Corpus Christi, worked with his son, Mark, to create a gofundme.com account to help cover medical costs. They want to raise $10,000.

"I'm glad there are donors out there that understand the situation," he said. "I'm very grateful to everybody out there."

Dayne Grahmann's diagnosis was a blow, his father said.

"It blew my mind at first," he said. "I knew it would be a setback in life."

When his daughter stepped forward, he said, it was in the nature of his family members to be there for each other but admitted fearing for both of his children's health.

"I'm glad, but my thoughts always go to the extreme," he said "It's a life-changing event for him, and it could be for her. The worry of losing both of them was always on my mind."

There's a consensus across the board: They wouldn't mind July 2 coming sooner.

The siblings look forward to a full recovery within eight to 10 weeks - after limited activity for three or four weeks from the surgery - and going back to work after about eight weeks.

Dayne Grahmann said he will never forget what his "baby girl" is doing for him.

"There are no words to explain it," he said. "She's saving my life. There are no words to describe it."

Realizing his sister has grown up and "proven herself," he plans to transition from a fatherly role to just being an inspiration, explaining he has "stepped back to her side."

"She's a smart girl," he said. "She's made some bad decisions and learned from them. She's made good decisions, and she's blossomed. She's a special girl."

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