OAKLAND (KTVU) - The bond between siblings can be a powerful one-- at any age. And in the case of two Oakland residents, it's that bond that led to a life-saving gift from a protective and loving big sister.
On July 11, Charlie Joseph, 33, received a new lease on life when his sister Dawna Joseph, 38, became an organ donor and gave him one of her kidneys.
"She is selfless. She wanted to give her brother an opportunity to live," said Dawna's fiancee, Jamila Williams.
Charlie had faced a series of medical problems which began about two years ago when he suffered a near fatal heart attack while playing basketball.
He was placed in a medical induced coma and underwent a series of exams, one of which resulted in a life-saving discovery, according to Williams.
The heart attack left him without any major problems. "It was pretty much a miracle," said Williams.
But during those exams, doctors found a cancerous tumor on one of his kidneys.
Charlie underwent surgery to have that kidney removed. But then his other kidney began to fail.
What followed was more than a year of dialysis and doctors told him he would need a kidney transplant.
That's when Dawna came to her brother's aid. "Without any hesitation, she stepped up," Williams said of her partner.
They soon learned that Dawna was a perfect donor match.
It may not have been a huge surprise, as the brother and sister share a striking resemblance and have always called each other twins despite the five years that separate them.
It took months for the transplant surgery to take place, due to complications related to medical coverage, according to Williams.
But earlier this month, the Joseph siblings became irrevocably linked through an act of love, and now share something that only strengthened that bond that they've always had.
Williams noted that Charlie and Dawna, the youngest and oldest of a family four children, grew up in East Oakland.
"They have had a lot of adversity over the years. And there is a closeness in their family," said Williams.
In a Facebook post two days after the surgery, Williams shared a photo of the two siblings with the caption: "True Meaning of Love."
Williams praised her partner, calling her a positive and inspiring role model to her family and friends and said that Dawna's influence goes beyond that.
Williams said that she's made a difference in the LGBTQ community in Oakland, acting as an advocate in many ways and inspiring those who want to come out.
The two have been together for eight years and are hoping to get married in October.
But for now, Williams said their focus is on making sure the two siblings keep getting stronger and undergo a full and healthy recovery.