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Kidney transplants woman urges others to look after their health

A woman who experienced two kidney transplants and years of dialysis caused by a strep throat infection is warning the public to be aware of their kidney health.

While Pauleter Stevens suffered kidney disease due to an infection, the two main causes of kidney failure — hypertension and diabetes — are preventable.

“When the people of the Bermuda Diabetes Association are pounding the pavements to educate the public, persons should listen, ask questions and follow the advice given,” she said.

“And for those with hypertension listen to the advice of their healthcare provider, take medication as prescribed and monitor their blood pressure.

“If one wants to compare life on dialysis versus managing their condition to avoid it, contact somebody who is on dialysis.”

Mrs Stevens was first diagnosed with kidney failure in 1994 after a strep throat infection spread to her kidneys.

At that time, she said she was put on dialysis and on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. Patients wait on average five years for a kidney transplant.

“It is always anxious times while waiting for an organ to become available,” she said. “You look forward to that freedom away from the dialysis, from spending three hours, three times a week connected to a machine.

“You no longer have to plan everything around it. You do not have to turn down engagements because it conflicts with your dialysis time.”

After nearly four years of waiting, Mrs Stevens received the call that a kidney had been found, and she was flown to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for a transplant.

The operation was a success, but years later she found herself again on dialysis and looking for a new kidney.

“In 2009 the transplant had completely failed and I required dialysis once again,” she said.

“Transplants do not come with a guarantee. The operation may or may not be a success and there is no determining how one will last. It can be for a matter of months or a matter of years.”

Mrs Stevens was contacted twice last year about potential transplant opportunities, but on the first occasion an air ambulance was not available and on the second doctors made the decision to wait until a better opportunity arose.

That opportunity came in May when she again flew to Boston for a new kidney, but the issues have continued.

“At first, things seemed to be going all right but my creatinine numbers started to climb,” she said. “This required a biopsy on the kidney to see what was going on, and they found some rejection was occurring.

“This was not completely unexpected because once you have had a kidney transplant they considered you highly sensitised, meaning you have built up defences. The antibodies I built up from the previous kidney was now attacking the new one.”

Currently, Mrs Stevens is undergoing plasmapheresis to combat the rejection, removing the plasma containing the antibodies from her blood and replacing them.

“This has truly been a challenge and I am thankful for the staff at Brigham Hospital, for my brother Walter who has accompanied me on this journey and the continuous words of encouragement from my friends in Bermuda,” she said.

She urged the public to take charge of their health, particularly those with a family history of kidney disease.

“The vast majority of those receiving haemodialysis have hypertension and/or diabetes,” she said. “It is so important to learn how to manage these conditions to avoid, prevent or prolong chronic kidney disease.

“It is also important to get a kidney function screening to determine if early intervention is s required. If you have any of the risk factors ask your healthcare provider for a kidney function screening. Ask to be referred to a specialist such as a nephrologist or a registered dietitian.”

Useful website: www.health.gov.bm.

Pauleter Stevens has undergone two kidney transplants during the past 10 years. She is urging the public to look after the health of their kidneys.

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Published June 25, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 24, 2013 at 11:59 pm)

Kidney transplants woman urges others to look after their health

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