Pandemic, protests don’t stop successful kidney transplant

August 11, 2020

There were shrieks of joy in Dawn’s house one morning toward the end of May.

Dawn got the call her family had been waiting for since last year: a kidney was available for her niece, JaNiya.

JaNiya was diagnosed with a type of kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) at age 12. Two years ago her condition deteriorated, requiring the teen, now 16, to begin dialysis.

“Treatments took up to three or four hours per day,” Dawn said. “She couldn’t enjoy her life and the things teenagers normally do.”

Journey toward transplant

When JaNiya began coming to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, nephrology specialists including Mahima Keswani, MD, met with the family to understand their goals for JaNiya’s care. Together they decided that a kidney transplant was the best long-term treatment option and worked to keep her as healthy as possible on dialysis while undergoing her evaluation for transplant.

After five months of waiting, a kidney became available for JaNiya.

The family had a few hours to get downtown from their suburban home to start the process. This timing coincided with the civil protests in Chicago and many streets surrounding Lurie Children’s downtown hospital were blocked off, making the trip more challenging for the eager family.

“We did make it there in time, and they knew exactly what we were there for and got us to a room right away,” Dawn said.

Transplant during a pandemic

Lurie Children’s prioritizes the safety of its patients and families and has implemented several measures to deter the spread of COVID-19. These include mask requirements, screening all hospital visitors for COVID-19 symptoms, social distancing throughout the hospital and testing all inpatient and procedural patients for COVID-19 and isolating them until results are available. Learn more about COVID-19 resources here.

Dr. Lemoine with JaNiya

Dawn said she and her husband were both able to stay in the hospital in empty waiting rooms while JaNiya had surgery with Caroline Lemoine, MD, an expert in transplantation and pediatric hepatobiliary surgery and the Surgical Director of Lurie Children’s Kidney Transplantation Program.

Dr. Lemoine offered a calming presence to the family.

“There was one point I was ready to cry, and she could see it,” Dawn recalled. “She told me ‘it’s going to be OK; I know it’s scary,’ and she was very, very comforting. It was like a weight came off me. I absolutely love her.”

‘The full life experience’

Reactions to medications following transplant kept JaNiya in the hospital for about three weeks following her transplant surgery. But following physical therapy and determination, JaNiya got stronger and is back to her “happy, giggly self.”

The artsy teen who loves to paint and draw will enter sophomore year with fewer restrictions than ever before.

“She won’t miss out on something because of dialysis appointments. She can have the full life experience.”

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