In mid-September, Selena Gomez revealed she'd undergone a kidney transplant in an Instagram post that promised more details to come. In an interview that aired Monday morning on the Today Show, the singer and her friend and kidney donor, actress Francia Raísa gave more insight into the whole situation.
Five years after being diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy cells, Selena was suffering from arthritis and kidney failure linked to the condition. "My mentality was just to keep going. I didn't realize how much it was affecting my body," Selena said.
To recover, she'd need a kidney transplant. "The thought of asking somebody to [donate their kidney to me] was really difficult for me," Selena told Savannah. “I didn't want to ask a single person in my life."
But she didn't need to ask Francia, who lived with Selena at the time and had witnessed the singer's deteriorating condition firsthand. "She couldn't open a water bottle one day," Francia said of Selena. "She chucked it and just started crying."
When Francia learned it could take seven to 10 years for Selena to receive a kidney donation from a stranger, she offered up her own organ without hesitation. Blood and urine tests revealed she'd be a perfect organ donor for Selena, so the transplant was scheduled.
Francia's move wasn't without risk: "I had to write a will, which is scary. Because there's no guarantee you'll wake up," Francia said.
Before going into surgery, she gave a peace sign to Selena, who went under the knife next.
Francia woke up feeling calm, but when Selena woke up from her first surgery, she started hyperventilating. Her teeth were grinding. "I was freaking out," she said. As it happened, her new kidney was turning around inside her body, a complication that required a second six-hour surgery — four more hours than the initial two-hour procedure.
Afterwards, Selena and Francia recovered side-by-side. "It was hard because you constantly had to ask for help. One of the most humbling experiences was needing help to like, put on underwear," Francia said. "It was a really brutal process."
Selena told Savannah her arthritis and lupus are gone, and says there's just a 3- to 5-percent chance her autoimmune disease will ever return.
"My life has been better," she concluded in the interview, by which point, Francia had already teared up.
The girls, Selena concludes, hope to raise awareness about lupus and kidney donation. "I don't think what we went through was easy. I don't think it was fun. I hope this inspires people to feel good, to know there is really good people in the world," Selena concluded.