Teen's Nosebleed Leads to 3 in Family Diagnosed With Dangerous Illness

Daughter and parents all diagnosed with serious diseases.

ByABC News
July 22, 2015, 2:33 PM

— -- A teen's trip to the doctor for a nosebleed led to potentially life-saving diagnoses for three members of a Texas family.

Crystal Enns’ parents were first alarmed when in 2013 the teen had a serious nosebleed that wouldn’t stop. But they were astounded when, after a trip to the doctor, Crystal was diagnosed with a serious kidney disease called juvenile nephronophthisis. According to the National Institute of Health, the disease causes “inflammation and scarring of the kidneys and ultimately leads to a life-threatening failure of kidney function.”

It was so serious that Crystal, then 14, would need a transplant.

“I didn’t want to talk about it,” Crystal, now 17, told local station KTVT. “I didn’t want to think that that would have to happen.”

Dr. Albert Quan, a pediatric nephrologist at Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas who treated Crystal, said the nosebleed didn't actually have anything to do with the rare kidney disease, but standard lab tests revealed the disease.

"This kidney disease doesn’t get better," Quan told ABC News. "The best we can do is slow the decline. In mid- to late-adolescence you either have ... to put her on dialysis or you have to [get her a] kidney transplant."

Crystal’s parents, however, were immediately ready to jump in and donate a kidney if they were a match. The teen’s mother, Cristy, was first to get tested and seemed on board to be donor until the final screening, according to KTVT. A spot was detected on her kidney, negating her ability to be a donor and leading to more tests for kidney disease and cancer.

Crystal’s father was next to be tested, but his results were even more alarming. His doctor called to tell him that not only was he not a donor candidate but he had kidney cancer.

“The doctor that called said, ‘This is lights and sirens, this is top of your to do list, this needs to come out right away, this doesn’t look good,’” Mark Enns told KTVT.

The family was dealt another blow when a scan of Cristy’s kidney revealed she, too, had the same kind of cancer that her husband had. Because the cancer was caught so early, both parents were able to be treated with an operation and did not need chemotherapy.

"We are overwhelmed with gratitude to God for allowing us to find out about her kidney disease when we did because Mark and I would never have been tested otherwise," Cristy Enns wrote in an email for ABC News. "The timing of her nosebleed allowed us to begin the donor screening process early, with plenty of time to discover and take care of our alarming cancer diagnosis before it came time for Crystal's transplant."

Quan said they are now working with a geneticist to determine if there was any possible genetic factor that could have affected both the parents' and Crystal's kidneys.

“I have to tell you that’s never happened to me and I’ve been doing this about 25 years,” Quan said of the parents being diagnosed with cancer during donor screenings.

While both of Crystal’s parents were unable to donate a kidney, Crystal’s aunt turned out to be a perfect match. In April of this year, Crystal successfully underwent kidney transplant surgery and is now getting ready to head to school next month according to her doctor. Her parents say they hope their story encourages others to consider being organ donors.

"If anyone is considering organ donation, but they have fears about if it is safe to do so ... take courage," wrote Cristy Enns. "Being screened as a donor could be a win-win for you. ... Either you are able to save someone else's life, or you could end up finding out about a health issue in your own life that you may never have known about otherwise."