SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — 25-year-old Melissa Galeana is living with a rare kidney disease.

The long and stressful journey started when she was a young girl.

“For a long time they thought it was just allergies or they thought it was a kidney infection. It was just a lot of things that doctors seemed to be putting off, and it took a long time to get my actual diagnosis,” Melissa Galeana of Rapid City said.

C3 glomerulonephritis ultimately sent Galeana into stage 5 kidney failure.

She started dialysis in 2020.

“Both of my kidneys combined were only functioning at about five percent,” Galeana said.

Galeana’s family has been fighting alongside her.

When Galeana’s brother, Hunter Paysen, was a senior at Aberdeen Central in 2021, he decided to cover his sister’s story in his journalism class.

“We were just sitting around in a brainstorming session one day and it all of a sudden just clicked in me that we’d been living this incredible story for almost my entire life and a majority of hers as well and I felt like it was definitely worth something covering,” Melissa’s brother Hunter Paysen said.

The story, which is called Melissa’s Kidney Search, details Galeana’s journey and features interviews from family members.

Paysen, who’s currently stationed in New Mexico with the Air Force, just found out his story won a national student Emmy.

“It was just a lot of disbelief. There was also the afterthought of this is really great, but I like to remain humble. I told myself I can feel all the joy and pride on the inside, but definitely try to stay true to who I am and don’t let it ruin my character,” Paysen said.

It doesn’t overshadow a message the siblings want to send to others.

“For people that are listening who may be going through the same issue or similar issues as Melissa, I just want to tell you that there’s obviously hope,” Paysen said.

Galeana’s story is proof of that.

She received a kidney from her stepfather last year.

The siblings also want to highlight the importance of blood and organ donation.

“Donating an organ is life-changing to the person receiving an organ, but it’s not life-changing to the donor. Their life will go back to normal after a week or two and it will be like it never happened,” Galeana said.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, nearly 106,000 men, women, and children are on the national transplant waiting list.