At age 24, Melissa Bensouda was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease after giving birth to her second daughter. After her third child, a son, was born, she lost all kidney function. On April 16, 2012, Melissa’s wait of nearly ten years for a transplant finally came to an end. Melissa reflects on her transplant journey.
When I was initially diagnosed with kidney disease, I was already in ESRD (end-stage renal disease) and fortunate enough to be referred right away to a transplant facility.
Following my evaluation, it was apparent that my wait for a transplant would be a long one due to my high antibody levels. My biggest fear was they would stand in the way of my receiving a transplant at all.
During my ten-year wait for a transplant, undergoing dialysis four to five days a week saved my life. I chose to undergo home-based hemodialysis so I could continue my full time job, raise my children and advocate for kidney patients.
As the years passed, I went through steps to maintain my place on the waiting list: medical tests, dental exams, routine bloodwork, and insurance recertification. For patients in a similar position, I suggest keeping a checklist and pacing yourself. Find a supportive friend or loved one who can help complete paperwork or attend medical appointments with you. Their support can make the emotional and physical fatigue of chronic kidney disease much more bearable.
At the time I didn’t know how to go about finding a living donor. We didn’t have a program like Explore Living Donation to give me the courage to seek a living donor.
Now that I have a transplant, my quality of life has improved more than I ever imagined. I take less medication, am free of dietary restrictions and have the energy to create memories with my children. I am also able to fulfill my obligation to educate patients, healthcare providers and caregivers about the experience of living with kidney failure. I developed a talk series Let’s Talk Kidneys, to support fellow kidney patients. The program encourages them to educate, empower and transform themselves as stepping stones to self-advocacy
Through my experience of waiting for and receiving a transplant, I learned that the world is full of loving people who provide support through a variety of avenues. When I felt there was no longer hope, they kept me going just a little bit longer and it paid off when I least expected it. I also learned how precious the gift of life is. Knowing that thousands await life-saving transplants and many die before ever receiving one, I am incredibly grateful and humbled by the opportunity to live through the generosity of my kidney donor.
My experience is rich with memories, cards, pep talks, gifts and well wishes from a multitude of friends, loved ones and even strangers. They have been my armor, shielding me from the defeat of my circumstances. It is through these circumstances that my passion to live has been fueled.
For patients deciding whether to get a transplant, my advice is to remain hopeful and do not give up on your chance to live a better life. Embrace life – choose transplant.