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'Only Murders in the Building' star living with a kidney transplant may surprise you

Find out more about how lupus ultimately caused Selena Gomez to receive a kidney transplant in 2017.
Selena Gomez on red carpet at the Only Murders in the Building TV premiere

On Aug. 8, Hulu premiered the third season of its original series, "Only Murders in the Building," in which comic legends Steve Martin and Martin Short team up with singer, actress and philanthropist Selena Gomez. The show often plays with the dynamics of this unexpected friendship as the three investigate murders that happen in their New York apartment building and record a true crime style podcast about it. Gomez's character, Mabel, often affectionately refers to Martin and Short's characters as her "olds," and the show frequently makes jokes about the age discrepancies of the podcast hosts – like when Mabel reminds Martin's character Charles that he does not need to sign text messages or Short's character, Oliver, explains his Donna Reed show reference.

You may be surprised, then, to learn that of the three, the 31-year-old Gomez is the one who has had a kidney transplant.

Sometimes people assume that kidney disease is only something that affects people as they age. But that is not the case. While high blood pressure and diabetes are the leading causes of kidney disease, there are many other types of kidney disease that can cause kidney failure in younger people. For Gomez, the cause was lupus.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system — which normally protects you from illness — does not function properly and ends up attacking your healthy cells. Its symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, joint swelling, muscle pain, unexplained fever and a red rash on your face. Unfortunately, it is tricky to diagnose since the symptoms are so similar to those you can get from other causes or diseases. An estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. are living with lupus. Many experts believe the cause of lupus is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Lupus causes damage to major organs — including the heart, lungs, brain and kidneys. In about 1 in 2 adults with the disease, the kidneys are affected, a condition called lupus nephritis.

Gomez shared her lupus diagnosis in 2015 in an interview with Billboard magazine. It ultimately damaged her kidneys, and she needed a kidney transplant.

Fortunately, in 2017, Gomez found a living organ donor: her friend (and fellow actor) Francia Raisa. In a video shared in March, Gomez said, "[Francia] went to get tested, and she was a match. And it was one of those moments where I felt watched over. I know I was so so so lucky… I understand that that doesn't happen for a lot of people, and I know the outcome of some of those situations and how serious they are, so I do not take it lightly that it's happened to me that way."

Gomez has openly talked about her struggles living with lupus and about receiving a kidney transplant. If you have also been diagnosed with lupus nephritis, the American Kidney Fund (AKF) has many resources to help you understand and navigate the disease as part of our "Looped In on Lupus Nephritis" campaign. Resources include:

In addition to sharing the physical challenges of lupus, Gomez has also publicly discussed how the disease has impacted her mental health. As part of her Rare Beauty make-up and skin care product line, Gomez launched a campaign to spread awareness about mental health among young people and to increase their access to mental health services. If kidney disease is negatively impacting your mental health, AKF has the following resources to help:


Meredith Deeley

Meredith Deeley is the communications specialist for the American Kidney Fund.