When Penn employee Dionne Bright was 19 years old, she learned that she had lupus and that eventually, she would need a kidney transplant. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. For Dionne, doctors predicted that eventually the chronic lupus would severely damage her kidneys.
By closely managing her medications and her diet, Dionne was able to maximize her kidney function and delay the kidney transplant until 2003. Her kidney function had decreased to the point where dialysis was needed until an appropriate living donor could be identified or a deceased donor kidney would become available.
As Dionne began dialysis treatments, her parents and her husband, Andre, were tested to learn if they could become live kidney donors for her. Unfortunately, they were not, so they began a campaign to help educate the community about the need for organ and tissue donation and Dionne’s need for a kidney donor.
Dionne remembers that season of looking for a living donor very well.
“The living donor process can be very emotional,” Dionne explains. “It’s important to realize that it is an involved process so it’s good to take a step back and remember that it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Andre started with his college fraternity and alumni association, hosting education tables and sharing information about organ and tissue donation from Gift of Life Donor Program and flyers highlighting Dionne’s search for a living kidney donor. Family members distributed flyers in their workplaces and in their communities.
Three months after beginning dialysis, Dionne’s aunt received an email from a colleague of hers who had seen the flyer and wanted to be tested to see if she’d be able to be a donor for Dionne.
When the donor evaluation was complete they learned that her aunt’s colleague could be her donor.
March 9, 2016 marked the 12-year anniversary since the transplant took place.
“My advice for people considering live donor kidney transplant is that education is key,” Dionne says. “Make sure you’re educating yourself and your family, friends and community.”
Dionne went on to say that it’s also important to take care of yourself throughout the process and take “me-time.”
“Take time to do things you enjoy,” she advises. “It’s a good way to get your mind off of the living donation process, and that’s key because the process can be challenging.”
Learn more about live donor kidney transplantation or make an appointment at Penn.