Do not let the small size of the town of Galeton fool you. The Potter County community is proving it has one of the largest hearts around, as it comes together to support two local sisters.
Melissa Williams, of Galeton, was born with one kidney. After years of suffering health problems, her only kidney failed.
At the age of 21, Melissa received her first kidney transplant and her life finally returned to normal. However, now 34, Melissa once again desperately needs a kidney.
LONNY FROST/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
The Williams’ family includes, from left, Vinessa Colucci; her mother, Melissa Williams; Ina Williams, mother of the two sisters; and Jessica Williams, Melissa’s sister.
"I have been having dialysis three times a week. It just wears me out," Melissa said. "I worry about getting ill because of my immune system is so weak due to my failing kidney."
Finding a kidney donor usually is the hardest part for the person who is looking for one.
Luckily, Melissa's younger sister, Jessica, is a perfect match - and she is eager to donate.
"I was delighted when I found out I was a match for my sister, because I knew I could save her life," Jessica said.
"My sister is very brave. She has never had a surgery, but yet she wants to give me one her kidneys. That makes her the bravest person I know, my own personal hero," Melissa said.
However, a lack of insurance is preventing Jessica from being able to give her sister a much-needed kidney.
"Insurance is the only thing stopping us from moving forward and saving my sister's life," Jessica said.
The life-saving surgery has been on hold for two years while the Williams family tries to raise enough funds to purchase the insurance needed.
"Although our family has been close, I feel we have even grown closer throughout this," Melissa said.
Meanwhile, others in Galeton have been working hard to publicize the family's plight and look for others who can help.
The situation has put both sisters' lives on hold.
"I have a 14-year-old daughter, Vinessa," Melissa said. "She is the love of my life. She is what keeps me going."
On Oct. 13, nearly 200 family, friends and community members attended a chicken and biscuit dinner fundraiser. Residents also donated items for a large silent auction. Raffles were held for other prizes, including food and 50/50 drawings and attendees could buy tickets for a dessert wheel contest. The sisters greeted everyone who came through the doors.
"The community has been fantastic. I am astonished because everyone has come together to help us," Melissa said.
Family friend Jessica Kincaid started an account at fundrazr.com/campaigns/cLu43 to collect funds.
Ina Williams, the mother of both sisters, has mixed feelings about the complex situation that lies ahead for both her daughters.
"I am happy, scared and nervous," Ina said. "I am happy to know that my oldest daughter has a chance for a new life. I am also nervous knowing they both will be having major surgery."
Jessica also admitted she is scared about the prospect of having major surgery, "but I would do anything to help my sister out."
"I love (Melissa) very much," Jessica said. "She is not only my sister, she is also my best friend. I would not know what to do without her in my life. She keeps me going because I have seen her fight through so many things just to be where she is now.
"I often wish it was me needing the transplant and not her," she added.