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Bridging the Widening Donor Gap in Hampton Roads Through Life-Changing Kidney Donations

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Jessica Person found herself in a challenging situation back in 2014 when a routine obstetrics appointment during her twin pregnancy took an unexpected turn. Despite being asymptomatic, her blood pressure was on the rise, and her test results were abnormal. This led to a referral to a nephrologist, who diagnosed her with chronic kidney disease.

Following the birth of her twins on New Year’s Eve, Jessica underwent a biopsy that confirmed the presence of an autoimmune disease targeting her kidneys. Over the years, her kidney health deteriorated, culminating in the need for dialysis in December 2022.

Dr. [ppp1] is the Surgical Director at Sentara’s Transplant Center, which has a rich history of successful transplants since 1972, totaling over 2,000 procedures. He emphasized the challenges faced by dialysis patients, who often have to undergo lengthy sessions multiple times a week, significantly impacting their quality of life.

Jessica managed her dialysis treatments at home, integrating them into her daily routine of work and caring for her children. The process of finding a suitable donor for a transplant can be arduous, especially in regions like Hampton Roads where the demand for donors, particularly from the African-American community, outstrips the supply.

Fortunately, Jessica’s family rallied around her, with her father turning out to be a compatible donor for the much-needed kidney transplant. After a thorough evaluation process to ensure donor safety, Jessica received her father’s kidney in December 2023, marking a significant turning point in her health journey.

Post-transplant care is crucial, requiring strict adherence to immunosuppressive medications to prevent rejection. Regular check-ups monitor the kidney’s function and the recipient’s overall well-being, with the aim of ensuring long-term success.

The success stories of transplants, such as the 50-year milestone celebrated by Sentara in 2022, highlight the transformative impact of organ donation. Despite advancements, the disparity between the number of patients awaiting transplants and available donors persists, underscoring the importance of raising awareness and dispelling myths surrounding donation.

In Jessica’s case, the support of her family, faith, and medical team played pivotal roles in her recovery and renewed vitality. Her father’s selfless act of donation not only restored her health but also inspired a deeper appreciation for the gift of life and the power of familial bonds.

As Jessica looks ahead to a brighter future with her children, her journey serves as a testament to the life-changing impact of organ donation and the resilience of the human spirit in overcoming adversity.