Kidney Transplant: Kris' Story

"I can only say, 'Thank you!' to all of the donors and families who have donated or donated a loved one's organs so that another person can have a second chance."
- Kris Yager-Rushton, who received a kidney transplant at UW Hospital and Clinics in 1998
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Kris Yager-Rushton with her husband, EdMy story starts in 1976, when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.


I had to change how I lived and that is hard for a 6-year old child to understand. My life became a bit more regimented and I was always aware of my diabetes. Back then, we did not have glucometers or insulin pumps. I tested my blood sugar level by the amount of sugar in my urine. Since then, many medical changes and updates happened, but I was not always compliant. It must have driven my mother nuts!


By the time I was in college, I had the beginning of kidney disease. I struggled through college with retinopathy (eye disease), kidney disease and managing my blood sugar level. I made it through college and met my husband, Edward. We married and moved to South Carolina.


For two years Ed taught at the university and I struggled to find a full time job with benefits. I was not able to be added to my husband's health insurance due to my pre-existing conditions. Then we moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, for his teaching position at Viterbo University. I finally found steady employment at what became Wells Fargo Bank and we bought our first home. Life was good as we settled into our new home and lives.


In 1998, I was told that I may need a transplant in the future. My overall health was good, so that was in my favor. I met with Dr. Hans Sollinger and the doctors and staff at UW Hospitals and Clinics early in September to be assessed for the transplant waiting list. By late September I was on dialysis and had a new job at the bank. I was only 28 years old.


I decided to do dialysis at home, with the peritoneal method in the abdomen. November rolled around and the insurance company finally added me to the waitlist just days before Thanksgiving. We went to a friend's house for Thanksgiving. That year was very warm for Wisconsin, nearly 70 degrees, and we were restless so we took a walk down the street and back. I was getting my machine ready for dialysis when the phone rang and they told me they had a possible match. They asked me "How long would it take to drive to the University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, door to door?" I told them 2 hours and 15 minutes. My husband was on the stairwell and asked "Is it time?"


We left food for the cats and starting filling a suitcase with items for my stay. Along the way, I called both of our families, Ed's parents in Iowa and my parents in Florida, plus co-workers and supervisors to let them know we wouldn't be in the next day. My parents' trip would take a bit of time, so my sister in Chicago was called to give Ed some support if needed, as my mother was worried for her youngest child having such a major surgery.


My surgery occurred November 30, 1998. It was a long but successful surgery. I felt tired but energized. It was a weird but wonderful sensation. I can only say, "Thank you!" to all of the donors and families who have donated or donated a loved one's organs so that another person can have a second chance. If it weren't for you, many recipients would not be here today. The best way I know to give thanks to my donor is by taking care of the precious gift given to me by a family who lost a 17-year-old son the day I found out I had another chance at life. To all of you out there today, again you are survivors, and I know each day is a gift, a gift of life. Thank you!