NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- In this joyous season of giving, we often think of gifts such as clothes, toys or electronics.
CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez has the story of a young woman from Queens giving her twin sister the gift of life.
Like many twin babies, Ashlee and Amina Alexander were born prematurely. The sisters are identical in virtually every way, except one. Ashlee developed autoimmune hepatitis when she was 11.
"My skin got really itchy for no reason, and my jaundice was really bad, and I was retaining a lot of water," Ashlee said.
Her illness was progressing slowly, but devastatingly.
Dr. Thomas Schiano, director of adult liver transplantation at Mount Sinai, became seriously concerned.
"She was hospitalized several times. She had no quality of life," said Schiano. "We were scared we were going to lose her, as often happens these days where 12-15% of people die before they get the gift of life on the transplant waiting list."
What most people don't realize is, unlike most other organs, livers can come from a living donor -- and Ashlee's twin Amina was an identical tissue match.
Despite being as close as twins can be, how can one ask the other for part of her liver?
"I was like, 'Hey, so, can I borrow some of your liver?' And she was like, 'Sure, when do you need it?'" Ashlee said.
"I was like, 'Girl, whatever.' And then she was like, 'No, seriously!' And I was like, 'Oh, OK. Yeah, let's do this,'" Amina said.
It wasn't that simple, of course. Many tests and psychological counseling led to a successful living liver transplant four years ago.
Since then, both Ashlee's and Amina's livers have regenerated so they're each just about normal size. It's the only organ that does that.
Ashlee said she often harbored a sense of resentment toward her sister because Amina was always the healthy one. But this transplant changed all that.
"We're all put on this planet for a reason, and she is my reason and I'm her reason," Ashlee said. "Every day, I'm grateful."
Ashlee, Amina and Dr. Schiano want everyone to know there could be so many more life-saving transplants like this if more living donors volunteer to save another life.
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