Twin brothers from eastern Iowa are recovering from a rare kidney transplant surgery. Doctors at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics say it’s the first “perfect match” kidney transplant performed at the hospital since 1967. Fifty-year-old Merlin Hamm of West Branch received the kidney from his identical twin brother, Marlin, of North Liberty. Both brothers were discharged from the hospital after spending only four days in recovery.

“I am just amazed,” Merlin said. “I am amazed at how well I feel.” Merlin was diagnosed with near complete kidney failure in 2009. Marlin said he never hesitated to donate his brother a kidney after he learned of his illness.

“I can survive on one kidney just fine and help (Merlin) live a longer life. I didn’t want to lose my brother, not only because he’s my brother, he’s also my best friend,” Marlin said. “I’d have to say it was probably one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my life, but it was also one of the quickest decisions I’ve made in my life.”

Kay Tupper, the twin’s mother, said she was overwhelmed but not surprised by how much her sons supported each other. “It’s because we’re close…you’re a family and that’s what you do,” Tupper said. The brothers learned just prior to surgery they were identical, rather than just fraternal, twins. The discovery meant the twins were a 100% compatible match and that Merlin risked few complications and wouldn’t require anti-rejection treatment.

The Hamm’s next battle will be paying for the operation. Both brothers are self-employed contractors and pay their own medical bills. The family is planning a benefit for November 5 at the Eagles Lodge in Iowa City to help lessen the financial burden of the surgery.

Here’s information on the benefit:

The family of Merlin and Marlin Hamm will host a benefit for the twins at 5pm on November 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.

By Mark Carlson, KCRG, Cedar Rapids