The lesser-known story behind what led to this Selena Gomez kidney transplant photo.

Video by Ellen

When we first saw this picture of Selena Gomez laying in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of her nose, it was both confronting and heartwarming.

In 2017, the singer and actress shared on Instagram how her battle with autoimmune disease Lupus resulted in the 25-year-old needing a kidney transplant. This, she explained at the time, was the reason for lack of public appearances and promotional for her new album, she told her fans.

But what about the other woman in the photo?

Gomez’s long-time friend Francia Raisa gave up her kidney to save her friend’s life.

“There aren’t words to describe how I can possibly thank my beautiful friend… she gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me. I am incredibly blessed,” Gomez captioned the image of them holding hands before surgery.

I’m very aware some of my fans had noticed I was laying low for part of the summer and questioning why I wasn’t promoting my new music, which I was extremely proud of. So I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my Lupus and was recovering. It was what I needed to do for my overall health. I honestly look forward to sharing with you, soon my journey through these past several months as I have always wanted to do with you. Until then I want to publicly thank my family and incredible team of doctors for everything they have done for me prior to and post-surgery. And finally, there aren’t words to describe how I can possibly thank my beautiful friend Francia Raisa. She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me. I am incredibly blessed. I love you so much sis. Lupus continues to be very misunderstood but progress is being made. For more information regarding Lupus please go to the Lupus Research Alliance website: www.lupusresearch.org/ -by grace through faith

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We now know Gomez has made a full recovery from her surgery and is by all reports in good health. But how did that sacrifice affect Raisa’s life?

In a profile with W Magazine, the 29-year-old fellow actress has spoken of how the decision to undergo surgery came about, and how the outcome could’ve been very different.

After becoming friends through a chance meeting at a children’s hospital while they were both on the teen TV scene – Gomez on Wizards of Waverley Place and Raisa on The Secret Life of the American Teenager – Gomez and Raisa moved in together.

That’s when Gomez’s Lupus began getting worse, and Raisa made the split second yet life changing decision to look at donating her kidney to her housemate.

“She went to go get tests, and she came home one day and she was serious. We all have our moments, so I just let her do her thing, I didn’t ask questions. She was asking me about my day and she grabbed a water bottle out of the fridge and tried to open it and couldn’t. Then she threw it on the floor, and she fell to the floor and started crying,” Raisa told W.

“I was like, ‘What is wrong with you?’ She said, ‘I need a new kidney. I don’t know what I’m going to do, the waitlist is seven to 10 years.’ And it just came out of me, and I said, ‘I’ll get tested.’ I called her assistant behind her back to get the information, and that’s how the process started.”

From there they found she was a match and so began the transplant process which involved a three-hour operation each and weeks of painful recovery.

Thankfully, the outcome was positive for both women, although as Raisa told W, it could have very easily gone wrong.

Hermanas ❤️

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“Selena did have a complication, too. A few hours after our surgery, I woke up and had a text from her that said, ‘I’m really scared.’ My kidney was very active, and when it turned I broke an artery. They had to take her into emergency surgery and get a vein from her leg and build a new artery to keep my kidney in place. She could have died,” she said.

Two weeks after the surgery, Raisa auditioned for her current role of Ana Torres in popular US spinoff TV series Grown-ish.

In February, Gomez appeared in good health on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Australia. She was interviewed by Australian 13 Reasons Why actress Katherine Langford.

Gomez first revealed she had been diagnosed with Lupus in an October 2015 interview with Billboard magazine, saying she was undergoing chemotherapy as a form of treatment.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease which causes the immune system to turn against parts of the body it is designed to protect. It can affect many parts of the body, including the skin, kidneys, heart and brain. Those diagnosed with the disease often go through periods of sickness, and periods of wellness or remission

For Gomez, anxiety, panic attacks and depression have also been side effects of her illness. The singer is now focused on increasing awareness and support for research for others suffering from lupus.

“Lupus continues to be very misunderstood but progress is being made,” she wrote alongside that memorable photo.

Mia Freedman talks to Bec Craven, the woman living because of someone else’s heart on No Filter.

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