Twin sisters – Together through childhood and transplant

They played the same position on their high school basketball team, finish each other’s sentences, and share a bedroom that they say is cluttered with medicine.

Twins Daija and Dazhai Craig share a special bond. They are two of the oldest siblings in a family of seven and have never been apart. So when Daija traveled three hours across state lines to receive a kidney transplant at IU Health, Dazhai was right by her side. And she never left.

Four years ago, at the age of 17, Daija was diagnosed with premature kidneys. A fit athlete, she had been in great health and one day her blood pressure skyrocketed. Tests showed that her kidneys were failing. She began dialysis and was listed for a new kidney.

“Of course I was tested and I was a match but then we got the call to come to Indianapolis. There was a kidney for my sister,” said Dazhai. They left their home in Chicago and came to Indianapolis where Daija received a transplant on July 30 under the care of IU Health Dr. William Goggins.

Daija was a sophomore at Lighthouse Charter School when she received her diagnosis and was hospitalized closer to home for three months. The twins graduated in 2017 and put their lives on hold because of Daija’s health issues.

“It’s been hard,” said Dazhai. “We are so close. Our mom does hair and when she is with a client, I will sit and ask questions. Daija can be in another room and will come in and ask the same questions. When she’s sick, I know it. I can feel it,” said Dazhai. Their oldest sibling is 27, and their youngest is a year old.

“We’ve always been the main providers for our family,” said Daija. “When we get money we spend it on our siblings. We just care about family and we think alike.”

Pictures of the two sisters show them on vacations with their grandma – Jamaica, Mexico, the Cayman Islands – and milestones throughout their lives. Many of the pictures have them dressed identical – one of them in frilly white dresses holding bouquets of flowers, another when they are a little older dressed in leopard print, and a more recent photo of two teens dressed in jeans and blue flannel shirts.

“I feel like I’ve been holding my breath, like my life is on hold,” said Daija. “This kidney means freedom.” Her sister added, “It’s the beginning of a new life.”

What does that new life include?

Both women are avid watchers of television crime shows and want to study criminal justice. Daija wants to become a police officer and Dazhai wants to study child psychology.

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email