Kelly was diagnosed with kidney disease after having unexplained high blood pressure for two years as a young adult, along with fatigue and nausea. While nobody in her family has a history of kidney disease, she was told she had IgA Nephropathy. Furthermore, the deterioration of her kidneys was happening fast, and she ended up on peritoneal dialysis for 10 months before her first transplant at age 27. Kelly felt fortunate that her husband was able to be her donor.
For 15 years, her transplant had proven to be a success before she entered into End-Stage Renal Failure, putting her back on peritoneal dialysis.
Several potential kidney donors ended in disappointment as a result of colds or infections from her catheter. When her peritoneal dialysis was becoming less effective, Kelly began hemodialysis in August of 2018. Unfortunately, this also required her to take a medical sabbatical from her teaching career, which she loved.
However, only one month later, Kelly received a phone call that delivered hope. UPMC Pinnacle’s nurse coordinator asked her if she wanted to enter the paired donor exchange program. Although she was told it could take eight to nine months to find a match due to her high antibody levels from her previous transplant, only two weeks later a match was found!
“That call was a relief. Dialysis was taking a toll on my body and I was beginning to give up hope.”
Kelly admits to having suffered from anxiety during the time between that call and her scheduled transplant since another infection or the flu could prevent her surgery from happening.
“I just wanted my body back to normal. I wanted to feel normal and be able to plan my day without worrying about treatments. And I wanted to have a normal diet of foods that appealed to me.”
She is eternally grateful for her health, those who cared for her, and of course, those who participated in the paired donor exchange.
“Because of two very generous human beings, I am alive and healthy with a functioning kidney.”
Kelly and her husband have wasted no time embracing their new-found freedom. They go camping in their RV and are planning a bi-coastal trip. She counts her blessings by the dozens and includes her family, colleagues, and her medical team. They were instrumental in helping on many levels – from beginning a donor awareness campaign and taking her to doctors' appointments and treatments to cooking and cleaning.
“I also feel extremely blessed to have had the care that I received from the UPMC Pinnacle Transplant team. Each person has been compassionate, helpful, proactive, and extremely organized. Dr. Yang and Dr. Ladie were exceptional, and Dr. Waybill's devotion to my post-transplant care has been a godsend to my well-being and recovery!”
Although Kelly does not know her donor, he or she is reported to have felt a calling. An act she considers selfless, generous, and kind. One day, she hopes to thank that person for such a special gift.
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