A living donor offers a two-for-one gift of life

Nearly 15 years ago Andrea Lee’s youngest daughter Jenevieve was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a long-term autoimmune disorder that may affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain and other organs. Jenevieve was 15, an age where her main concern should have been friends and fun. Instead, she focused on staying out of the sun, away from those who were sick and eating bananas for potassium. By the time she was 25, her ravaged body needed drugs, surgeries and dialysis. Her kidneys were functioning at a dismal 7 percent.

Jenevieve made many friends at the three-times-a-week dialysis treatments. She knew the nurses by first name, befriended the regulars, and made craft gifts for everyone. Outside of dialysis, except for a limp from osteoporosis of a hip joint, one would never guess that she was so sick with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). A life of dialysis seemed the answer until Jenevieve and Andrea were sent to a class about kidney transplantation.

The transplant coordinator helped them navigate the world of organ donation. She scheduled tests and put Andrea in touch with organ donors and recipients. They had experience, tips and connections, plus they understood what Jenevieve and Andrea were going through.

Jenevieve put her name onto a national list of patients who needed a kidney and then waited. While waiting, Andrea learned that one of the best organ donor candidates is a family member. She decided to undergo prescribed lab tests and passed every single test. After a few months, Andrea was cleared as a good donor match for Jenevieve.

In August 2008, Jenevieve and Andrea spent a week in the hospital and the kidney transplant was a success.

Once at home, Andrea allowed her body to heal. Soon she was back to normal— playing with grandkids, working, traveling, and other life activities that she enjoys. At the follow-up visit, her doctor told her that her lab results were so good that it looked like she still had two kidneys!

Today, Jenevieve, who turned 30 this year, thrives. She is a full-time student studying radiology at Kapi‘olani Community College. She wants to give back to the medical community that helped her through her journey. She continues her jewelry craft and makes herself available to those who want to learn about kidney dialysis, transplant or SLE.

Also, Andrea’s family volunteers for the newly established Hawai‘i Organ Transplant (H.O.T.) Support Group, a council of the National Kidney Foundation of Hawai‘i. Its mission is to support and educate people who have had, or are in the process of, an organ transplant. For more information, please visit www.hawaiiorgantransplant.wordpress.com.

National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii
1314 South King St., #304, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814