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When Peyton Byrd was 18 years old, she felt like her life was completely hopeless. The woman from Knoxville, Tenn., was in excruciating pain every day and when she saw local doctors, they accused her of seeking pain medications.
“I felt helpless,” she says. “All people wanted to do was give me pain medications or shrug their shoulders at me.”
Peyton’s health problems began when she passed her first kidney stone at age 10. She started passing kidney stones twice a year until she was 15, when she was passing them monthly.
By age 16, she began experiencing similar pain once every week, but her doctor told her she wasn't passing stones at all - she was just in pain for seemingly no reason, while also vomiting and shaking uncontrollably.
Her junior year in high school, she was diagnosed with renal nutcracker syndrome, a condition that occurs when the left renal vein becomes compressed. She underwent surgery three times to try to move and decompress her vein, but it didn't work. In the end, she lost her left kidney. Even with only one kidney remaining, Peyton continued to have severe disabling pain.
Peyton's mother was desperately seeking answers on the Internet when she came across Hans Sollinger, MD, transplant surgeon at UW Health in Madison. She learned Dr. Sollinger had helped other girls who experienced similar pain, and she decided to contact him. That connection was what gave Peyton her life back.
Dr. Sollinger asked Peyton to come to Madison and undergo a lidocaine test. This test, which Dr. Sollinger developed, became a game changer for her. A urologist injected a pain relief medication into her ureter. Over the next day, she was free from pain, which confirmed that her pain was originating in her ureter. Dr. Sollinger diagnosed Peyton with loin pain hematuria syndrome, a rare disorder that causes recurring loin pain and blood in the urine.
On Dec. 2, 2016, transplant surgeons at UW Health, performed a kidney autotransplant, removing her right kidney and almost all her ureter, and replacing her kidney in a different location. This procedure was complicated by the fact that she had only one kidney, and this kidney had two arteries. Any technical mishaps and Peyton would have been on dialysis. Fortunately, everything went well.
Now 21, Peyton is a surgical tech student at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, and she hopes to become a physician's assistant someday. In addition to being a full-time student, she works in the surgery department at a local hospital and exercises every day. “I never thought I would be able to do so much,” she says. “The transplant surgeons are my heroes.”