Perfect match

Eastern Iowa twin donates kidney to brother

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IOWA CITY — Doctors at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics have successfully transplanted the first “perfect” match kidney at the hospital since 1967.

Merlin Hamm, 50, of West Branch, received the kidney from his identical twin, Marlin, of North Liberty. The men are now recovering from the surgery, which took place Oct. 20.

“I am just amazed,” Merlin said. “I am amazed at how well I feel.”

Both were discharged from the hospital after spending four days in recovery.

“In general, identical-twin-to-identical-twin transplant is incredibly rare,” said Dr. Zoe Stewart, surgical director of the kidney transplant program at UI Hospitals. “This is only the second time (it’s happened) at the University of Iowa.”

Merlin was diagnosed with near complete kidney failure in 2009, and Marlin Hamm said he never hesitated in offering his brother a kidney.

“I didn’t want to lose my brother, not only because he’s my brother, but my best friend,” Marlin said. “I can survive just fine on one kidney, and help (Merlin) live a longer life.”

Kay Tupper, the twins’ mother, said she was overwhelmed but not surprised by how much her sons supported each other.

“They’re always there for each other no matter what,” Tupper said. “We didn’t know they were 100 percent (match) until the day before surgery.”

Another thing the brothers were not certain of until surgery was whether they were identical or fraternal twins.

“We always thought they were identical, but we were never positive,” Tupper said.

The discovery that the twins were a 100 percent compatible match confirmed that they were identical, Stewart said. It also meant that Merlin had a lower risk of complications and wouldn’t require any anti-rejection treatment.

The Hamms’ next battle will be paying for the operation, since both brothers are self-employed contractors and pay their own medical bills. The family is planning a Nov. 5 benefit at the Eagles Lodge in Iowa City to help.


The family of Merlin and Marlin Hamm will host a benefit for the twins at 5 p.m. on Nov. 5 at the Eagles Lodge in Iowa City.

A $10/plate chili dinner will be followed by a silent auction and raffle.

Donations can be made to the Hamm Brothers Benefit Fund in care of Don and Kay Tupper at 402 Waterway Drive, Iowa City, IA 52246 or sent to Hills Bank and Trust Company/Hamm Brothers Benefit Fund at 131 Main Street, Hills, IA. 52235.

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