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Sibling tattoos: a kidney donor and recipient | Chicago ink

Josh and Lani Gilardon: giving a kidney, getting tattoos.

 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max Herman

Josh Gilardon's arm piece.

 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max Herman

Josh Gilardon.

 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max Herman

Lani Gilardon's wrist pieces.

 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max Herman

Josh Gilardon's arm piece.

 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max Herman

Lani Gilardon.

Josh and Lani Gilardon In the middle of a shift at the post office in 2005, Josh knew something was seriously wrong with his body. Suffering severe migraines and blurred vision, he could no longer read the mail or drive. He quickly admitted himself to Stroger Hospital. “They said I was minutes away from a stroke,” says the 28-year-old, now a veterinary assistant. He was diagnosed with a dual blood disease, TTP-HUS, which causes acute kidney problems. Four days into his hospital stay, on St. Patrick’s Day, Josh slipped into a coma. After six months of dialysis, it was clear Josh needed a kidney transplant. “I knew immediately I would be the donor,” says Josh’s 31-year-old sister, Lani, who now sports tattoos on her wrists, one reading “kidney,” the other “donor.” Josh also captured his near-death experience in ink: a bold arm piece featuring a crow (Lani’s favorite bird) carrying away a kidney and the inscription “Kidney Thief.” In the Gilardon family, Josh says with a grateful smile, Lani is affectionately known as “the sacrificial lamb.”

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