Florida woman getting kidney from generous local
Melanie Taylor's story to recovery is different. It wasn't the unexpected health condition that changed her life, it was the exact one she had expected — but not so soon.
"I was born with a genetic disorder that my dad had and his brothers had. It's polycystic kidney disease. Usually when you get to your 40s and 50s, you start to have complications with your kidneys," said Taylor, who at 43-years-old anticipated several more years before needing a transplant. "After Hurricane Michael, mine seemed to fail faster than expected."
The disease causes cysts to develop in the kidneys and interfere with filtering waste products from the blood, making a transplant a life-saving procedure for people with the disease.
From August 2018 to January last year, Taylor’s blood work showed progressively poorer results. She blames the stress of the hurricane for exacerbating the condition, as regulating blood pressure is critical to kidney function.
“I thought I had about 10 years (before needing a transplant),” she said. “I blame the hurricane.”
By August last year, Taylor would be added to a living donors list — though it wasn’t clear for how long. In the meantime, she had to shift her diet to plant-based, closely monitor her blood pressure and mentally prepare to indefinitely wait for a qualifying donor.
"I felt like we've lived in limbo," she said. "It was like an emotional roller coaster of if I'm going to have to go on dialysis, will I have a donor and how else will I have to alter my life to get this done."
Several missed calls displayed on her phone while at dialysis two weeks ago would signal a change to the tide of uncertainty — it was a call from her donor.
"I just started crying there in the chair," Taylor said. "I was ecstatic."
Local resident Jennifer Bowman, a 50-year-old mother of six children and grandmother of seven, said it was something she had long thought about, and after seeing a post on Facebook in December about Taylor's story, she simply wanted to help.
"I just did it," she chuckled. "It never crossed my mind that they'd actually call me."
The women shared the same social network, but didn’t know each other personally.
"I just feel like it's something that has to be done," Bowman added. "She needs it, and I don't necessarily have to have it. And she has to have it to survive."
By the time Bowman called Taylor, she had already completed testing for living donors at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. The surgery is scheduled for May 1.
A social media page has been started to help Taylor with travel, lodging and food expenses. As of Thursday, the campaign had raised about $8,000.
"Our response was unbelievable," Taylor said, adding insurance will cover all surgery expenses for her and her donor. "We've got above that which we were aiming for. We're just really grateful."
Taylor will stay throughout May and then will be in recovery for about three months locally.
Bowman will remain in Jacksonville for two weeks after the surgery, and then put on minimum movement for the following six weeks. She said her donation is a result of experiencing and sharing courage during the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
"I think Hurricane Michael changed a lot of people," Bowman said. "I'm not really afraid of anything anymore. I haven't really been anxious about it, but it definitely seems like the right thing to do."
On Friday, Taylor completed her final full week of dialysis. She reflected on how the journey has impacted her life.
"I think I just understand how much more grateful I am for my health," Taylor said. "I really have become aware of how wonderful our friends and family are and how giving they are."
Both women said they plan to bring awareness to the process of becoming a living donor and help others find donors.
"If they're healthy enough, they should do it," Bowman said.
“It's a great opportunity; it's a selfless act,” Taylor added. “And people need to see it's come so far in the last 20 years. It’s not as complicated a surgery as it used to be. She said, beyond surgery, it builds a special bond between people.
"No matter where Jennifer and I live or are for the rest of our lives, we will always have that connection," she said.
To become a donor, go to MayoClinic.org/livingdonor.
This story originally published to newsherald.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.