Christy Harris - 40

recipient back“I was on dialysis for three years. I didn't have diabetes or high blood pressure. Doctors don't know what caused the problems. I had been sick for a while, and by the time I finally went to the doctor, they told me I was already in end-stage kidney failure, and my kidneys were so shriveled up that they were gone. They couldn't test them to see what happened to them.

“In 2012, in the three months leading up to when I went in to the hospital, I just started feeling really bad, really weak. I used to throw up all of the time. I didn't eat anything for three months. I lost 80 pounds. Everything left a real nasty taste in my mouth. I couldn't even drink water; it had a funny taste to it. I just stopped eating all together. When I went in to the hospital, I was severely dehydrated. I could barely walk from my bathroom to my bed.

“One day, it felt like I was having a heart attack, or something, and that's when I went to the emergency room. They did blood work and told me I was going to have to go ICU because both of my kidneys had failed. It was downhill from there.

“I know I waited too long to go to the doctor. I never used to go the doctor. I'm the type of person that figures that rest and fluids will eventually get you well. At first, I thought I had a cold. But the big reason I didn't go was because I didn't have insurance.

“When I finally did go to the doctor the first time, I was told I had a sinus infection, and they gave me a shot. I decided to enroll on my insurance plan at work after that, but it wasn't going to take affect until April 1. My plan was to wait until April 1 and then go back to the doctor again, but I didn't make it. I ended up going to the emergency room March 22, 2012. They told me if I had waited until April, I would have died because my toxin level was so high.

“Once they discovered I had end-stage kidney failure, I started dialysis. I did hemodialysis for a year and a half, but my fistulas kept blowing all the time and they used to constantly clot off. I just had a horrible experience with hemodialysis. I used to get real bad cramps and was real weak all of the time. I decided to do peritoneal dialysis, home dialysis, in September 2013, and I did that until I came in for my transplant in May 2015. I did peritoneal dialysis for nine hours each day, every night.

“Being on dialysis really didn't bother me like it did members of my family. I had faith that this was going to work out in some kind of way. I knew that God had something in store for me. I was never really worried about the dialysis itself. I did have a couple of setbacks where you get to thinking about certain things and the worst does come into your mind.

“In the beginning, when I was hospitalized for a month, it was tough. I have twins, and they were just 2 years old at the time. My mom passed a year prior to me getting sick, so there was a lot to process in the early going. I had panic and anxiety attacks when I was first diagnosed. Later I was diagnosed with depression. I would feel sorry for myself sometimes because my boyfriend, Demetris Hale, would have to do a lot of things for me. I have four kids I was trying to take care of, and the bills didn't stop. It was a lot to take in, and it bothered me early on.

“As far as finding a donor to bring with me to this program, my brothers and I had discussed them getting tested for me. When we first started talking about it, this cross-matching thing wasn't even available, or at least I didn't know about it. I thought I would have to have a donor that matched my tissue and blood type. And, in your mind, you think, 'Well, let me try to find a family member.' But everyone in my family has high blood pressure. Some have diabetes, and some have had cancer. My dad was going to be tested to donate for me, but he already had cancer, and he had high blood pressure.

“Ultimately, I was talking with Demetris and I asked him if he would get tested, and he said, 'OK.' We called the number and he did his phone interview and we went from there. He and I talked about it at first when I was talking to my brothers about it. When I asked him if he would do it, he didn't hesitate to do it.

“He helped give me a new lease on life.”

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.

kc baseball thumbUAB baseball team helps Mississippi family cope with loss of father, husband

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. 

chalice kc2Science, generosity save lives in UAB Kidney Chain

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.

thompson kcNation’s longest kidney transplant chain reaches 34

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.