As a child, Kate S. had to learn about a disease most adults can’t even pronounce. The condition, called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), causes excess protein in the urine and reduces the kidney’s ability to filter wastes. From her diagnosis at age four until her kidneys failed at age 33, Kate couldn’t get her symptoms under control no matter what treatments she tried.
After she experienced kidney failure and required peritoneal dialysis for 10 hours every night, Kate began researching transplant centers so she could be added to the waiting list for a new kidney.
“I originally started the process for getting listed at a hospital in Orange County, but wasn’t happy with my experience,” said Kate. “The coordination of care was inefficient, and I was nervous about their one-size-fits-all treatment protocol for my condition.”
When Kate first learned about Scripps Center for Organ & Cell Transplantation in San Diego, she scheduled an appointment to learn more about their program and was pleasantly surprised by how thorough and friendly the staff was.
“I could tell that everyone from the transplant coordinators to the schedulers took my situation personally, like I was more than just a number,” said Kate. “And I was impressed by my personal consultation with the transplant surgeon, Dr. Marsh. He was very calming, did a very thorough history, and considered my individual situation before determining a treatment protocol. It was very refreshing.”
Dr. Christopher Marsh, chief of transplant surgery, remembers that Kate was excited about Scripps’ steroid-free protocol, particularly because her specific type of FSGS is steroid-resistant.
“The nice thing about our program is that we’re small, meaning we can take the time to get to know our patients in detail,” said Dr. Marsh. “While this obviously benefits our patients, it’s also a bonus for the physicians and staff because our donors and recipients essentially become part of the family.”
Kate didn’t have to wait long on the transplant waiting list because her boyfriend, Michael, volunteered to donate one of his kidneys and, after extensive testing, was found to be a suitable match.
After battling such a serious disease for three decades, Kate’s life changed dramatically in January 2007. “I woke up in the ICU the morning after the transplant, and immediately felt better than I had in years,” said Kate. “Now, three years later, I’ve had no medical issues related to the transplant and I’m feeling great.”
Kate and Michael turned out to be a good match in more ways than one. The summer following their transplant surgery the couple got engaged, and then married a year later.
During that time Kate continued her visits to Scripps Center for Organ & Cell Transplantation for routine post-transplant care, including regular check-ups with Dr. Daniel Salomon. Then, after two years of marriage and several consultations with Dr. Salomon about the risks associated with pregnancy following transplant, Kate and Michael conceived their first child.
“Although it’s possible for women to have a successful pregnancy following a kidney transplant, it is considered high-risk,” said Kate. Both her obstetrician and Dr. Salomon followed Kate’s pregnancy closely, and carefully monitored her transplant medications and doses as well as her blood pressure and kidney function. With the exception of mild pre-eclampsia in her third trimester, the pregnancy was uncomplicated.
Kate and Michael’s son was born full-term and healthy in the fall of 2009, and the couple says they couldn’t possibly feel more blessed. “A couple of years ago I wasn’t even sure I was going to live, and now I’m married to the man who gave me a kidney and we have a child together,” said Kate. “It’s miraculous.”
“I’m not sure how different my life would be now, had I gone somewhere else for my transplant,” Kate added. “I’m grateful to Scripps for providing such personal care, and for caring about me more than they cared about their statistics. For that, my family and I will always be grateful.”