Cook Co. commissioner gets new kidney from sister

December 7, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Steele had the transplant surgery three weeks ago.

He had been on several waiting lists but it turns out his sister Joyce was a perfect match.

Robert Steele has waged a 27-year battle with type-2 diabetes.

He has always been close to his older sister Joyce. But now Steele actually carries part of her inside him, and her kidney is helping him return to a normal life.

"Just so happy she even took the opportunity to test. Because many family members don't do that. They won't go out and take the test," said Robert Steele.

"It was really a no-brainer. If I had something that could help improve his life, then I had to do it. There was no question," said Joyce Steele.

Few of his colleagues or constituents knew of Commissioner Steele's longtime battle with type-2 diabetes. He never talked about the long sessions hooked up to a dialysis machine several days a week. Three weeks ago, however, that changed when Joyce went under the knife to donate one of her kidneys to her brother.

Today, both say it went amazingly well and they are feeling great. They want to help spread the word especially in minority communities that organ donation is easy and can make a huge difference.

"There's a fear that your life will change in some adverse way. I have come to learn that is just not the case. I feel awesome," said Joyce Steele.

Robert was appointed to replace his mother, longtime Commissioner Bobbie Steele, in the South and West sides 2nd District. Their father, who died two years ago, helped instill the importance of family.

"Our dad really gave us the inkling years ago that we ought to take care of each member of the family," said Robert Steele.

Steele says getting tested as a possible donor is important. One of his cousins learned during the test that he is also diabetic and is now getting treatment. The commissioner says he plans to recognize the donor group Gift for Life at an upcoming county board meeting.

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