Kidney transplant

New kidney changes Nancy's outlook on life

Woman leaning against wall and smiling.

It’s been 18 years since Nancy Hucke received her life-saving kidney transplant, and the image that she remembers most clearly is what she saw right before she went to sleep under anesthesia: Her anesthesiologist was wearing a Chicago Bears bandana, and she’s an avid Green Bay Packers fan.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want that to be the last thing I see before I die!’” Nancy said.

Fortunately, she was in good hands at UW Health’s Transplant Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and she has been able to see dozens of Packers games with her season tickets since then.

Nancy learned she had kidney disease in 2002 when she became dehydrated while on a raspberry-picking trip. Her kidneys were failing, and soon, she started dialysis treatment. During the three years she was on dialysis, she struggled physically, emotionally and financially. She lived alone and could only work part time, so she relied on the local food pantry to help her make ends meet.

Even when Nancy got on the wait list for a new kidney, she was still depressed. “I didn’t want to be on the list,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m never going to actually get a new kidney.’”

Then, during a December blizzard in 2005, Nancy received the call she had been waiting for—but she almost missed it. She didn’t recognize the number on her phone, so she didn’t answer it. Shortly thereafter, her nephrologist phoned to say, “‘You have a kidney! Why aren’t you answering your phone?’”

Nancy’s friend from work volunteered to drive her to the hospital in his truck, and just a little while later, she was the proud owner of a new kidney.

“The care that I got at UW Health was so remarkable,” she said. “Everybody was wonderful. They just really took good care of me.”

Since she received her transplant, Nancy’s health has thrived. She moved away from Wisconsin to live in Arizona for 13 years, then recently returned to Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. She loves walking, socializing with friends, spending time outside and, of course, watching the Packers.

“I treat my kidney like gold,” she said. “I feel like I won the lottery with my transplant. I owe my donor everything.”