Good News! Tessie received a transplant from a living donor in August, 2014. A few words from Tessie:
"I would like to express my deepest appreciation to my donor, who, without her act of generosity and selflessness, my transplant would not be possible. It's a miracle that our paths even crosssed. We met at the urgent care center, and less than five minutes after meeting me and hearing my story, she offered to donate her kidney to me."
My name is Tessie. I am 44 years old and live in Toronto, Canada, where I was born and raised. My journey officially started when I was about 10 years old. But even before that, there were warning signs. Symptoms considered in isolation seemed innocent enough: Allergies too numerous to mention didn’t seem that alarming. A stomach pain now and then was attributed to “something I ate.” Fatigue and swollen glands that landed me in the doctor’s office almost every week were “just a virus.” The lack of appetite was my being a “picky eater." Little did we know that all these things put together were leading to something more ominous. In September, 1978, I was diagnosed with lupus nephritis. And so my journey began.
I was started on prednisone and immunosuppressants in the hope that I would feel better. I’m not sure what made me feel more sick--the lupus or the drugs. After a year of conventional drug therapy, I was not getting any better. In fact, I was getting worse. The disease could not be controlled, and my kidney function was deteriorating.
One of my doctors, a kidney specialist, was conducting a clinical trial to test a treatment for lupus nephritis called plasmapheresis. Similar to dialysis, It involves inserting needles into the arm and having the blood purified of the antibodies that cause lupus. I was only 11 years old, and the thought of being poked with needles on a regular basis was too much for me. I turned it down.
But within 3 months, I had become so ill that I had no choice. There was no other treatment left to try. What started as a 2-year experiment turned into 8 years of life-saving treatments. It became a regular part of my life, like piano lessons or doing homework.
Fortunately, the plasmapheresis was successful. My last flare up was July, 1991. It has been a tough road, but there have been achievements and successes along the way. I found a job (in the area of clinical trials, incidentally), bought a home, worked as a systems analyst in Sweden for a short time, and travelled through Europe. I’ve also learned a lot about myself and about life. I’ve learned the importance of family and friends, and that a little faith, hope, and humour go a long way.
I’ve also reached a milestone in my life: I reached age 40. Some doctors didn’t think I’d live that long, but I like proving people wrong. I’ve been doing it most of my life. I celebrated by going to the Philippines and meeting ten of my cousins for the first time.
And so the journey that has spanned over 30 years continues. That's the good news....
The not-so-good news is that my kidney function has slowly declined over the years, and I now need a transplant. I haven’t started dialysis yet, but I will soon be assessed for it. While it is life-saving, dialysis is only a temporary treatment. It is very hard on the body and causes other severe health problems so, a transplant is best.
Because my family members are unable to donate to me, I am searching for a living donor. To help me search, my cousin has set up a Facebook page: Help Tessie Find a Kidney Donor. I invite you to visit the page to learn more about me and to follow my journey. I would be very grateful if you would share both my Facebook page and this page with your Facebook contacts.
I have type O blood, but because my transplant centre, Toronto General Hospital, has a paired exchange program, a person of any blood type can donate. Canadian and American citizens are eligible to donate; you do not have to be a resident of Canada. If you would like to consider giving me the gift of life, please send a private message to the "Help Tessie Find a Kidney Donor" page on Facebook. One of the page administrators will send my transplant coordinator's contact information to you.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Please consider helping me continue my journey toward a healthier tomorrow.
A family gathering with some of my Canadian relatives: From left to right, my brother, Cliff; his two children; me in the center; and my cousins Natasha and Bianca.
My brother, Cliff, and my mother
My niece and nephew are bright spots in my life.
My sister-in-law, Carolyn, and I at Easter dinner with our crazy fascinators. After all, life is about being crazy and having fun!