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Here's The Story Behind The Teenager Whose Nosebleed Saved Three Lives

Crystal Enns' bloody nose led doctors to discover the family’s life-threatening kidney problems.

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This is Crystal Enns. She's a 17-year-old from Wylie, Texas, and two years ago a nosebleed led doctors to diagnose her with a rare kidney disease, as well as kidney tumors in both of her parents.

Courtesy of Mark and Cristy Enns

The Ennses just came forward with their incredible story and it's going viral. BuzzFeed Life reached out to the Ennses and their doctor to learn more about what the family went through and how they have been since.

It all started in January 2013, when Crystal had a nosebleed so bad it kept her home from school.

"She had never had a bloody nose before," Crystal's mother, Cristy Enns, told BuzzFeed Life in an email. "It lasted 40 minutes and she missed school all day because she kept spitting up blood — it was not normal. We called our family doctor and took her in for labwork, and the results came back indicating kidney problems, so they sent us to a pediatric nephrologist."

After further testing, doctors diagnosed Crystal with juvenile nephronophthisis, a rare genetic kidney disease.

Courtesy of Mark and Cristy Enns

"Crystal's type usually doesn't present itself until the kidney is failing and they need dialysis in their late teens," Dr. Albert Quan, the pediatric nephrologist who treated her at Medical Dallas City Hospital in Dallas, told BuzzFeed Life. "But Crystal had no symptoms yet, so we were surprised." She didn't need dialysis, but by 2014 her disease inevitably worsened and she needed a kidney transplant.


While her parents were being screened as possible kidney donors for Crystal, they found out that they both had kidney tumors.


"Mark and I were both perfect matches as donors for Crystal," she says. "It was on the last test of the donor screening, a CT scan, where they detected our tumors. We had thought we were good to go to donate and then devastated at the end," Cristy said. They first discovered a spot on her kidney, then kidney cancer in Mark. After running additional tests, both parents were diagnosed with renal carcinoma, explains Quan. "As far as I know, this was all by random chance."

"We were stunned," says Cristy. "Life with four children is pretty crazy to begin with, and then add to that this unbelievable chain of events."

Luckily, both parents were diagnosed early enough for doctors to successfully treat the kidney cancer.


The cancer hadn't spread, so doctors were able to effectively remove it in both parents. "Fortunately, the only treatment required for each of us was a partial nephrectomy [removal of part of the kidney], which we had done in 2014. For both of us, the surgery was successful," Cristy says.

"We are in the process of working with a genetic researcher to try to determine if our cancer has something to do with the fact that we were both carriers of juvenile nephronophthisis. There is not a lot of data on this disease because of how rare it is (approx. 1 in 1 million)."

And Crystal's aunt, her mother's sister, turned out to be a successful kidney donor for her niece.

Courtesy of Mark and Cristy Enns

"[Crystal's aunt] is a beautiful and courageous human being," says Cristy. "We will never be able to thank her enough for the sacrifice she made for our girl."

Crystal underwent her successful transplant surgery this April.

Courtesy of Mark and Cristy Enns

"The two years leading up to transplant were very hard, as I continued to become more and more fatigued," Crystal tells BuzzFeed Life. "After I had my transplant, I felt so much better. I could tell an immediate difference."

"She came in on the 20th of April and left nine days later, it was incredible," says Quan, pictured above with Crystal. "She's doing very well."


"To not have any [transplant] rejection so far is such an answer to a prayer," says Crystal.

Courtesy of Mark and Cristy Enns

"I thank God for His goodness to our entire family and Dr. Quan for his expert care."

And about that nosebleed that led to these three diagnoses? Absolutely no connection.

"The nosebleed was not at all related to her kidney disease," says Quan. "Everyone gets nosebleeds, and her kidney disease is so rare." But if the nosebleed hadn't sent her to the doctor, they probably wouldn't have caught her kidney disease (or the cancers) early enough to treat them successfully.

"We've been asked if we believe this was divine intervention," says Mark. "We've come to believe that every new day is a miracle."

Crystal is making a strong recovery and is finally getting back to being a normal teenager.

Courtesy of Mark and Cristy Enns

As a gifted piano player who hopes to become a piano teacher one day, she was thrilled to receive a grand piano from the Make-A-Wish Foundation after her transplant.

The Ennses say they want this story to spread awareness of organ donation and how it can save lives.

Mark and Cristy Enns

"Our story is a good one because it has a happy ending. However, there are many people out there who are waiting for an organ donor," says Mark.

"What better way [to show love for others] than to be a part of the life-changing and life-giving sacrifice of organ donation? We've become much more aware of this need since it has affected our family," he says. "You don't have anything to lose in just getting screened… either you could end up being a part of doing something lifesaving for someone, or you could end up finding out about a health issue of your own that you many never have discovered otherwise."