Kiara Brown - 35

Rose, Kiara and Lisa BrownRose, Kiara and Lisa BrownAs told by Lisa Brown, Kiara’s mom

“Everything really started with Kiara when she was 11.

“One day she was eating pizza and started complaining about her chest hurting. I gave her something for heartburn, but a couple of days later, it was still bothering her. I took her to the pediatrician and he diagnosed her with gastritis. Before that she was just laying around the house and moping, which was unusual because she was a very active child. I had just bought her a basketball goal, and she wouldn’t even go out and play on it or anything, and I knew something was going on.

“The doctors told me not to give her anything spicy, greasy or fried and limit her milk products. I did all of that, and she was still laying around the house. I called the pediatrician a few days later and told them she was still the same; she was still moping around not getting any better.

“They said if it continued to bring her back in two days later. So, a couple of days later, my sister took her back while I was at work. When they got to the doctor’s office, Kiara was breathing heavily and was very, very weak. She was holding her chest. They took an x-ray of her chest and found out she had an enlarged heart, and they told us we needed to get her to the Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi.

“When my sister brought her back home, I immediately left work and took her. The doctor there came in and told us her blood pressure was through the roof and said it wasn’t good. The doctor told me she had gone into kidney failure. I thought right then and there that my world was gone.

“They did an immediate emergency dialysis because they said her system was poisoned. Her creatinine level was very poor. That was the beginning of it all for us. She ended up in ICU for about two weeks. The doctors were trying to give us a little hope at first and said the kidneys might go back to functioning properly after doing the dialysis, but that never happened.

“She had to start hemodialysis. They then introduced us to peritoneal dialysis, and that’s what we ultimately went with. My grandpa had gone through hemodialysis when he got sick, and I thought it was awful. I thought doing the peritoneal dialysis at home while she slept was the best way for us to go.

“We battled her blood pressure for three years. She had seizures, loss of vision, loss of hearing, but it was all just temporary. Her blood pressure was so high she had three seizures. The doctor didn’t think we were dialyzing her properly, but we were. Her body was just not cooperating with her dialysis. It wasn’t getting the toxins off.

“We got a phone call from UAB about three years after she started dialysis and were told they had a cadaver kidney. She received that kidney transplant and three years later, her senior year, she contracted BK virus. At the time, they didn’t know a lot about BK virus. They told us there were very, very few kidney transplant patients that contract that virus.

“They caught the virus in her bloodstream, and it attacked the kidney so much that it was functioning at only 60 percent. It eventually went to 30 percent and her body just couldn’t fight off that virus. In 2006 they removed the kidney. We’ve been on the kidney transplant list until they called us in the fall of 2014 and told us it was time to come up for a review.

“We’ve been coming to UAB for eight years, and in December 2014, they told us we had a donor. I started saying, ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ over and over. Kiara had gotten to the point where nothing mattered anymore. She wasn’t suicidal, but she was depressed. She just couldn’t live her life the way she wanted to live it.

“When we got that phone call, everything lifted. I could see her spirit lifting. Her attitude changed. She was telling everyone, ‘I’m going to get a new kidney.’ My family has been through so much. This was just God-sent. We think so much of Belinda Beasley, Kiara’s donor. She’s just heaven-sent.

“Kiara is doing wonderful now. She gets up every morning and doesn’t sleep late. She goes places now she didn’t want to go before. She’s a whole different child — totally different. Her attitude about life is better. She’s not sickly anymore. She feels good. You don’t have to dread dialysis. It has made all the difference in the world. Our family is so thankful.

“We’ve been through a lot, Kiara’s been through a lot, but God keeps on blessing us. He sees us through it all. Without Mrs. Belinda, I don’t know what we would have done. I can’t be any more grateful.” 

Celebrating the nation's longest kidney chain

High-tech medicine and human kindness combine in UAB's ongoing kidney chain, a series of transplant surgeries that have given 101 people so far a new lease on life. The chain is the nation's longest ever.

The kidney chain has been kept going by many remarkable acts of sacrifice, and has revealed many moving stories of determination. Tyler Williamson went to TEDx Birmingham’s 2017 event in March expecting to be inspired and to network and make new connections with fellow attendees. What the 27-year-old did not anticipate was that inspiration would lead him to volunteer to become a living kidney donor just seven months later. See his story in this video:

In their words, stories from our transplant donors and recipients.

Kendra BrooksKendra Brooks. After more than four years of dialysis treatments, Kendra Brooks received her transplant in April 2016. Kendra’s mom donated a kidney so her daughter could receive one and wrote a letter to share the news. “It said, ‘God has answered our prayers. We have a match.’ I cried puddles of tears of joy,” Kendra says. Learn more about Kendra.

sheldon vaughn webSheldon Vaughn. High blood pressure and diabetes ravaged Sheldon Vaughn’s kidneys, and it was the kindness of two donors who helped him achieve a transplant. “A dialysis nurse my wife and I came to know wanted to donate to me, but wasn’t a match for me, and her kidney went to a woman in Florida. But because of her donation, I was able go on the UAB list and received my kidney from a young woman named Nicole who had contacted UAB and wanted to donate her kidney to anybody. So in a sense, I feel like I have two donors.” Learn more about Sheldon.

laura burks w Laura Burks. With a desire to help others, Laura Burks was looking for her next opportunity when a friend posted on her blog about how she was going to donate a kidney. “I thought, ‘That is what I need to do,’ Laura says. “Before that, I didn’t know you could be a loving donor. I thought it was something that happens after you pass away. After realizing that I could give away an organ that I don’t have to have to live with, I thought, ‘If I don’t do this, my life’s not complete.’ I just knew somebody needed a kidney and they’re depending on some stranger to give up theirs, and I was that stranger. Learn more about Laura.

William Harris w William Harris. High blood pressure caused William Harris’ kidneys to fail, and he was told he would eventually need a kidney transplant to live. After nine years of dialysis treatments, his wish came true. “When I was told I was a candidate to get a transplant, and that there was a match for me, I didn’t have any fears,” William says. “I was humbled to know that someone wanted to give me a kidney.” Learn more about William.

Become a part of the chain

Donate a kidney 
If you would like to donate to someone in need of a transplant, begin by filling out this form. You can learn more about kidney transplantation at UAB here.  

Get on the list
If you are in need of a kidney transplant, you will need a referral from your nephrologist. Your doctor can get all the details here.

Give a gift
Support the UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute with a donation online .

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UAB Kidney Chain news

kidney chain 100 graphic kc siteNation’s longest single-site kidney chain reaches 100

To date, 101 living donors have changed the lives of 101 recipients as part of the nation’s longest ongoing single-center paired kidney transplant chain.

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Young boy loses his dad, but finds many father figures on UAB's baseball team.

div kcFrom transplant lab worker to donor, employee becomes part of UAB’s world-record kidney chain

Divyank Saini is a UAB lab technologist and one of 17 employees who work behind the scenes at UAB Hospital to bring hope to those waiting on heart, lung, kidney, liver and other transplants. Saini made a decision that he wanted to do more than just his important work of interpreting lab samples to find the right matches. He decided to become a living donor and is UAB Kidney Chain donor No. 57. 

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Meet a family bound not by blood or name, but by their kidneys in the world’s longest living-donor kidney transplant chain. Discover how science and human kindness come together to save lives.

kc surgeryIncompatible, yet needed: What are incompatible kidney transplants? And why are they done?

The human body is primed to identify and destroy invaders like viruses, bacteria and other pathogens that can bring illness or death. Cells of the immune system and the antibodies they make recognize such foreign bodies and act to remove and destroy them. This defense system is a potential problem for kidney transplants. People have different blood groups and different human leukocyte antigens that can provoke an attack if a tissue, such as a kidney, or blood is transferred from one person to another. These two barriers are called blood group incompatibility and tissue (or histo-) incompatibility. A kidney transplant team uses the histocompatibility and blood bank testing laboratories to determine whether the tissues and blood group of a volunteer living kidney donor and the intended recipient match. A match is good, but matches are not always possible.

Jerry Phillips kcCommunity of the South: Donors help stretch UAB Kidney Chain to record 51 transplants

Fifty-first transplant means 102 total surgeries have been performed since December 2013 as the nation’s longest-ever chain continues to grow.

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The UAB kidney chain, which began December 2013 and expects more transplants in January 2015, ‘showcases the power of the human spirit in every aspect.’

nightline kcNation’s largest single-site kidney transplant chain underway at UAB

Since December, 21 living donor kidney transplants that have taken place at UAB are connected as donors “pay it forward” for a recipient to keep the chain going, and more transplants are scheduled for July.

locke press conferenceSnow can’t stop the Southeast’s largest kidney transplant chain at UAB

The unexpected 2014 snowstorm that crippled the Southeast did not deter the transplant team at UAB from continuing the largest nondirected donor chain ever performed at a single center in the Southeast. 

1080px UPDATE Kidney map 2018

The kidney chain has brought donors and recipients to UAB from across the eastern United States and as far away as Oregon.

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Learn more

dr locke video

UAB transplant surgeon Jayme Locke, M.D., and transplant nephrologist Vineeta Kumar, M.D., discuss living kidney donation and paired-kidney exchange in a series of videos on UAB's MD Learning Channel.