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Beloved sister’s death gives Flushing man new life

On Monday morning, Lee, healing from an improbable transplant surgery, sobbed silently as he tried to wrap his mind around the most bittersweet of miracles - one which granted him new life, but ripped his greatest support out from underneath him.A Flushing resident who worked as a cleaning products delivery man, Lee fell ill in early November. When his sister Sunyun Lee brought him to the emergency room at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, doctors told Lee both his kidneys were failing and he would need to go on dialysis treatment to keep him alive. Lee needed a double kidney transplant but adamantly refused to go on dialysis until Sunyun convinced him to do so. Over the next two months Sunyun remained by her brother's side, attending all of his dialysis treatments and tirelessly consulting with doctors regarding his treatment and working to get Lee on the state's organ donor waiting list. On Jan. 18 Sunyun, a 46-year-old Bayside resident, collapsed after a cerebral aneurysm ruptured, leaving her on life support at New York Hospital of Queens, with no brain activity. After a whirlwind of paperwork and consent forms were signed, Lee received both his sister's kidneys.Lee had a new lease on life, but his sister was dead.On Monday at North Shore University Hospital, Lee sat with his family and said through a translator that "he could not believe this happened to him." He said he could feel his sister's spirit inside him and would be "very careful" to make sure it was protected. "I could not think of anyone but my sister the entire time," Lee said. Dr. Peter Walker, North Shore University Hospital's medical director, said the most remarkable aspect of the unlikely chain of events was that Lee and Sunyun were a perfect match for organ donation, a rarity often found only in identical twins. Walker praised the staff at North Shore University Hospital who, once it became apparent that Sunyun could be a viable donation partner for her brother, completed a stack of paperwork and put Lee through a battery of tests that would normally take weeks in just two days. "The likelihood that a triumph will emerge from this tragedy is very, very high," Walker said.The organ transplant surgery was so successful that Lee was able to join his family for his sister's funeral a mere 72 hours after it was completed.Lee said he and his family were struggling with the pain of knowing Sunyun is gone, but also know that a part of her will live on in him for the rest of his life. Sunyun's son, 14-year-old Christopher Park, said the experience has brought their family closer. Park described his mother as someone who always put the concerns of others before herself. "She was very caring, but I think she was too busy to care for herself," Park said.Park said he was still grieving for his mother, but took solace in knowing that his uncle would be able to live a healthy life as a result. "Whenever I'm with my uncle, I feel my mother," he said. "I think of her as a hero." Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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