NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - It's the Instagram picture that has everyone talking: Selena Gomez, in a hospital gown, hooked up to machines but smiling brightly. The accompanying post says in part: "I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my lupus." That kidney came from her "beautiful friend Francia Raisa." The singer then shared a picture of her scar with her 126 million followers.
"She's very fortunate that she had such a loving friend that would give that great gift to her," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the Transplant Institute at NYU Langone. (He did not treat Selena.)
He told Fox 5 that lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself. Women in their 20s and 30s are most affected. Only about 3 percent of kidney transplants are due to lupus, but the overall need is great, especially if you are looking to the deceased donor list.
"There are more than 100,000 patients who are waiting for a kidney right now," Dr. Montgomery said. "But less than 20 percent will receive a transplant this year."
The other option is finding a live donor match, like Francia Raisa, in Selena's case.
"The live-donor kidneys, on average, last twice as long as the deceased-donor kidneys," Dr. Montgomery said. "That's really important for a woman who is in her 20s or early 30s."
He said that lupus must be in remission in order to do the transplant. But once it happens, the lifelong maintenance drugs that ensure the body accepts the new organ will also keep lupus at bay.
"She's going to continue to be beautiful," Dr. Montgomery said. "And she's going to continue to have a charmed life. She will have a normal life."
New York State ranks second-lowest in the nation when it comes to registered donors, according to national data.