Brandie, living donor kidney recipient, Richmond, VA
When one thinks of the age of 28, things that come to mind are building a career, getting married, or starting a family. The words End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) are not usually the first words that come to mind. For Brandie, these were the words she heard only a few weeks after she turned 28 and again when she was 32.
Brandie's story is filled with bravery, a positive attitude, and the will to live. She was adopted at birth and didn't connect with her biological mother until she was an adult. When Brandie found out she had ESRD and would either need dialysis or a kidney transplant, her biological mother was tested and found to be a compatible kidney donor. This was the answer to Brandie's health issues and a fairytale of sorts in the making. However, the fairytale was short lived and Brandie's new kidney developed a blood clot. The kidney was severely damaged and only lasted for three years and ten months.
"Christmas of 2005, I was very sick and could not eat, so I started dialysis the first week in January 2006, I was 32," Brandie remembers. She received her first transplant in February 2002 and the second in February 2006. "The second kidney was from a living anonymous donor through proxy (paired kidney donation)," explains Brandie. "She [the donor] wanted to give her kidney to a co-worker but she wasn't a match, so she gave me her kidney and her co-worker fortunately received a kidney a week later." Brandie has since met her donor and her donor feels that in the end she was able to help two people instead of just one.
The second transplant was very successful and the recovery was uneventful. "The transplant team at Henrico Doctor's Hospital in Richmond Virginia took care of my every need and the nursing staff was wonderful," Brandie said. She was out of the hospital a week after the surgery. "I will celebrate two years with the second kidney transplant this month and I feel great! I have returned to work part-time as a Controller and feel as though my life is back on track." Brandie now has the freedom to spend time with her family and friends, return to work and volunteer with several organizations, which she would not physically be able to do prior to her transplant.
Brandie now speaks to groups about organ donation. One of those groups is the driver's education classes at area high schools. She speaks to these groups in particular so the students can make an informed decision prior to receiving their driver's license that designates organ donor in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Brandie feels strongly that public education on organ donation is key. She stated, "After I speak to groups about my experience, I am always surprised by the misconceptions people have about organ donation. I believe support for the transplant patient after the surgery is very important and also talking to other transplant patients about their experience is helpful in improving the organ donation and transplantation process."
It has been six years since Brandie was first diagnosed with ESRD and has two living donors that she is thankful for, a healthy kidney, and a positive outlook on life. "I try to focus on what I have instead of what I don't have and I've learned to be thankful and appreciative for every day."