Mary Jane and Michelle
After being affected by her amyloidosis, BMC patient Mary Jane was told that she would need a new kidney. Knowing that it can be very difficult to find a kidney donor, and one with a perfect kidney match, her husband, Jerry, went to Facebook. He made an Uncle Sam–like poster, reading “If you are O+ and willing to save my life, please send me a message!” and posted it on as many public Facebook pages as he could. After hearing back from a few sources, they found Michelle, who turned out to live right down the street from Mary Jane and Jerry.
“Most kidney donors I talk to say they were nervous, but I was actually very excited. I always knew that I wanted to do something like this, so when I saw the post and read Mary Jane’s story, I was compelled to message Jerry,” said Michelle. After testing at BMC and discovering that Michelle had an O blood type, it was confirmed that the transplant could happen.
In October of 2019, Mary Jane and Michelle had their surgeries. Dr. David Wang performed the surgery on Michelle, and Dr. Matthew Nuhn, who has since left BMC, performed surgery on Mary Jane. Transplant nephrologists, Dr. Sandeep Ghai and Dr. Jean Francis, provided care before and after the surgery to both women. “I loved Dr. Ghai and Dr. Francis – they were terrific,” said Mary Jane. The surgery was a success.
“Ever since the surgery, we have been good friends with Michelle,” said Mary Jane. Her husband, Jerry, went on to say, “Michelle is a unique person. She is so giving. It’s one thing to give your kidney to a family member, it’s another thing to give it to a stranger."
Michelle says, “We have yet to meet in person since the surgery due to COVID-19, but we both are getting our vaccines.
Hopefully our families will get to have dinner together this summer!”
From the moment Patricia was born, she battled kidney disease, having consistent infections growing up and her first surgery at two years old. When she moved to the United States from Venezuela in 2015, she was on a strict steroid treatment that was enough to keep her standard of living high. In 2019, however, she had a major relapse. Her care team was very clear: she needed to begin dialysis immediately and would need a new kidney.
"I had always feared dialysis and was honestly terrified, but I quickly realized that this is what I needed for healing on my journey to get my transplant," said Patricia. She was several months into her dialysis treatment and was at a training at the dialysis center when she received a call from BMC.
"I will never forget that moment. I answered the phone and that was it — I was getting a new kidney. The woman who called me spoke to me in Spanish and answered all my questions." Patricia received the call that there was a deceased donor who was a match, and after receiving the call at 10 am, she was getting prepped for surgery at noon.
"I don't have any family in Boston, and since it was such short notice none of my out-of-town relatives could come in for my transplant. My BMC providers became my family that day. They guided me and cared for me. Dr. Sarah Meade is my hero, and I will never forget the care she gave me and her patience in answering all of my questions. She treated me as if I was her own sister, and I felt comfortable she was helping me make the best decision."
“The BMC transplant team is honored to have the privilege to care for Patricia,” says Dr. Meade, “and we wish her a lifetime of happiness and health.”
Ferdison and Melissa
A bad cough that wouldn’t go away and urging from his girlfriend initially sent Ferdison to the Emergency Department at Boston Medical Center (BMC) in the summer of 2017. Young—just 27—and seemingly healthy, it came as quite a surprise when doctors told him that the cause was actually kidney disease and that he was in renal failure. With a diagnosis of IgA nephropathy, he started dialysis three times a week and was placed on the national kidney transplant list to wait for a deceased donor. The wait time here in New England can range from four to 10 years, depending on blood type, before a kidney becomes available from a deceased donor through the organ bank.
Ferdison’s family includes five siblings, with a brother and sister in the Boston area and the others living farther away. It wasn’t too long before Melissa, one of Ferdison’s younger sisters, then just 21 and close by, stepped forward to see if she was a match to donate a kidney.
Bloodwork and a series of scans showed that she was a perfect candidate. On June 6, 2018, brother and sister underwent successful surgeries at BMC. “She is my guardian angel,” says Ferdison of his sister Melissa. “Thanks to her, since the surgery, my life has been much, much better.”
Ferdison, who still sees BMC nephrologist Dr. Sandeep Ghai regularly, is back to fishing, riding his bike, and doing things he enjoyed before his kidney issues began.
“Growing up, my brother and I were always very close,” says Melissa, “I had no second thoughts. I knew it was the right thing to do.” Still, she understands that deciding to donate a kidney is a big decision, and appreciated that she could discuss any concerns with a social worker and the transplant coordinators, all experienced nurses.
“Everyone at BMC made me feel very comfortable,” says Melissa. She adds that if you are thinking about donating, “Just know that at BMC, you are in good hands.”
Sarah - Questions and Prayers Answered
“Thank you, Jesus!” —Sarah Ferdinand Houston’s scream at 1a.m. was so loud it woke up everyone at the dialysis center. After nine years of overnight dialysis three days a week, Sarah would get a healthy kidney just hours later on May 21, 2021.
Sarah knew the call was coming. She was taking a break from work forthe first time in 30 years and doing everything she needed to do to stay on the transplant list. Sarah felt so optimistic she had even packed a bag for the hospital with a handmade t-shirt on top that read, “The wait is over. I finally got the call.”
Sarah thanks Dr. Sarah Meade for helping her get to the finish line. “I worked in the medical field, so I had so many questions,” she explains. “How does the surgery work? What are my other options? Why do I need to get vaccinated? Dr. Meade always came with a paper and would draw for me. She would explain everything and then still ask, ‘Are you sure you understand?’”
It was her trust in Dr. Meade and her faith that helped Sarah pull through two difficult setbacks. After the transplant surgery, her new kidneytook some time to “wake up,” and then she got an infection requiring emergency surgery and 12 weeks of wearing a drainage bag. “Dr. Meade took really good care of me, but it was still hard.” She’d get up every day and say, “I am strong, I am healthy. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” She explains, “I believe in the law of attraction; what you speak comes back to you.”
Today, Sarah is feeling better than ever. She enjoys crafting, eating foods she never could before and spending time with her family. “Right now, I am doing what brings me joy.” She wanted to share all the ups downs of her story to give people on dialysis hope. She encourages them to join kidney groups online(she’s part of five) and do whatever else it takes to stay positive.
Sarah doesn’t take for granted that someone had to lose their life for her to live. “I felt very sad on Thanksgiving and Christmas. There I was sitting with my family, eating a meal and laughing, and their table had an empty seat. But if this person didn’t donate, maybe my family table would be empty.”
Willie - Patience and Positivity
February 12, 2021 is a day Willie Harrison will never forget. After seven long years of weekly dialysis appointments and four years on a transplant list, Willie finally received a kidney. “I am so thankful,” he said. “When I got the call, I was in tears. Ijumped into a Lyft and went straight to BMC. I stayed overnight at the hospital,and they took me into surgery first thing the next morning.”
Thanks to BMC transplant surgeon, Dr. Sarah Meade, and her team, Willie’s surgery was a success, and his recovery was smooth. After the transplant, he made a commitment to taking care of himself. “I became a new me. I realized that it was time to make some big changes in my life to protect my new kidney.” It was then that Willie began monitoring his cholesterol, drinking more water, exercising, eating healthier, and watching his weight.
Before the transplant, Willie’s journey had many ups and downs. After having frequent,debilitating headaches and muscle weakness, Willie finally saw a doctor and received thedevastating news that he had kidney failure. And for the next seven years, he spent much of his time on dialysis. “I would go from 5:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday through Friday of every week. I’d bring my headphones and tablet, anything to make the time go by,” he says. “Being on the transplant list helped me get through. I knew I just had to be patient and my time would eventually come.” This positive outlook helped him remain strong through many operations, including gastric bypass surgery. “You have to keep the faith, be patient, and be ready for when the time comes.”
Willie is grateful for the support he received from his church and family, especially his daughter, Natasha. He says, “You have to remember to say thank you to everyone who supported you along the way. Let them know how much you appreciate them.”
Willie is grateful for his care team at BMC.“The nurses were so compassionate and the doctors took great care of me,” he says. For others embarking on their transplant journey, Willie advises, “Never give up. Always listen to your doctors and remember you can do this.”
Barbara and Lisa - Age Appropriate
At age 79, Barbara Bobblis was nearing end-stage kidney failure and began preparing for dialysis. One evening, Barbara’s daughter, Lisa, offered another option. “She wanted to give me a kidney. I didn’t want to let her do it, but she insisted, and I gave in."
Barbara and Lisa met with Serita Hernandez, a transplant coordinator at BMC. After some testing, Barbara hit a potential roadblock. “They told me they don’t usually do kidney transplants on people over age 72.”
But a few days later, she got a call asking her to meet with a surgeon. She was in good health and they thought she might be a candidate. She and Lisa began a series of tests to see if they were a match and if they were in good healthfor the surgery.
In June of 2020, Lisa was accepted as her donor, but they were waiting for Barbara’s approval. In October, Barbara met with her kidney doctor, Dr. Jean Francis, and transplant surgeon, Dr. Sayeed Malek. “The surgeon was a little worried about my heart. Dr. Francis told me to get up and walk up and down the hall,” Barbara says. “After I did, he said, ‘You’re getting a kidney.’ I was so happy. Dr. Francis is the most remarkable doctor I’ve ever met. He’s so down to earth, human, and funny.”
Throughout the process, Lisa worked closely with Karen Curreri, clinical administrator for transplant surgery. She says the decision to be a living donor for her mother was a no-brainer. “My grandmother had diabetes, and we watched her lose her eyesight, go on dialysis, and succumb to organ failure. I didn’t want my mother to go through that. I wanted her to keep living like she was.”
Barbara received her kidney on March 17, 2021. Both she and Lisa had smooth surgeries and easy recoveries. But a month later, Barbara’s husband suddenly passed away. Then in July, Barbara had a car accident and was hospitalized with severe injuries.
Despite the loss and setbacks, Barbara is feeling good and tries to stay positive. She takes care of herthree dogs, is an avid knitter,and loves to go shopping. She’s grateful for Lisa and her transplant team at BMC. “Everyone there, from the nurses to the surgeons, coordinators and caregivers are just remarkable.”