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Transplant recipient: Kidney disease doesn’t always have symptoms

“The scary part of kidney disease is you don’t have symptoms,” says Melissa Carter, a kidney transplant recipient at Piedmont Transplant Institute.

When she was 27, she thought she had the flu, so she went to an urgent care facility for treatment. Her blood pressure was 210/140 and she had protein in her urine. The next day, she learned she had a kidney issue and was told to see a specialist as soon as possible.

“I really didn’t have any symptoms related to it at the time,” she says.

Kidney disease diagnosis

By the time Carter was diagnosed with kidney disease, her kidneys were at 33 percent function. She was able to avoid dialysis until her kidney function dipped to 11 percent.

“They assumed it would be at least a five- to eight-year wait on the [transplant] list,” she says.

Her brother volunteered to donate his kidney, but wasn’t a match. Carter’s sister was a cancer survivor, so she wasn’t allowed to undergo testing for living kidney donation.

One of Carter’s cousins offered to get tested, so Piedmont coordinated with her hospital in Portland, Ore., through the testing process. Her cousin came to Atlanta for the final round of testing the week before the surgery.

“Fortunately, we were a match,” says Carter.

Melissa Carter’s kidney transplant

“The experience at Piedmont was fantastic,” she says. “The staff is just incredible because you’re so vulnerable when you have an illness, when you’re sick and you don’t feel good. I was able to be comfortable enough to feel like, ‘I just want my mom,’ and the staff at Piedmont just filled that space. And they did it without making me feel awkward about it.”

She thanks her medical team for giving her a second chance at life.

“Piedmont saved my life and I will always say that because it’s the truth.”

Life with a new kidney

Since receiving her new kidney 12 years ago, Carter vowed to make the most of her life.

“It’s a night-and-day difference,” she says. “I’ve had a much more fulfilled life. I’ve lived far more in the past 12 years than I have in the 44 years I’ve been alive. That’s for sure.”

To learn more about living kidney donation and kidney transplant, visit Piedmont Transplant Institute

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