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From Surviving to Thriving after Transplant

Complete care approach ensures PKD triumph and transplant success

Jennifer BranchTo say a diagnosis of polycystic kidney disease (PKD) made someone feel empowered may seem hard to believe. But that's exactly how Jennifer Branch describes her mindset soon after a devastating PKD diagnosis in May 1996. According to Jennifer, once she understood her PKD diagnosis, she set her sights on the goal of receiving a kidney transplant. Once her kidney function fell to about 20%, which is required by transplant guidelines, she began the necessary tests and evaluations with doctors at The University of Kansas Health System.

Jennifer was officially placed on the transplant list in December 2013, and she prepared for the expected wait. Typical transplant wait time is often around 2½ to 3 years. But remarkably, Jennifer got a call after just 6½ months.

"When I received the call for my kidney transplant, I was very surprised," Jennifer says. "I didn't really understand what was happening at first, but I was very excited. I was quickly told about a donor offer, but I still thought they were talking about someone else. It didn't occur to me that this was a kidney for me. I was very blessed."

Jennifer received her kidney transplant on April 15, 2014.

A center for complete care

"We help people with end-stage renal disease or pancreas failure through lifesaving transplants," says Jaime Bartley, nurse manager for the kidney and pancreas transplant program at The University of Kansas Health System. "Through the gift from another person, something so beautiful, we're able to help patients have a better quality of life and give them hope."

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Bartley is part of a comprehensive team and approach to care that follows patients through their whole transplant journey. "This is the most dedicated, most experienced team that I've worked with," Bartley says. "They'll do whatever it takes to make the right decisions for the patient, each and every time."

Transplant surgeon Tim Schmitt, MD, director of transplantation at The University of Kansas Health System, reinforces the focus on complete care provided by the program – which offers nearly 50 years of experience performing transplants, as well as the highest volume of transplant procedures in the area.

"That requires us to have expertise, not only in surgery, but in all other aspects of taking care of the patient," Dr. Schmitt says. "Our system is comprehensive, with focus always on the patient. You don't need a referral from a doctor to be evaluated for transplant here at the hospital."

Focus on the patient

It's important for PKD patients and those exploring a transplant center to know what to look for in a provider and overall approach to care.

"There are many important factors to consider," says Dr. Schmitt. "One factor is outcomes. A record of good short- and long-term transplant outcomes is important. But also look at the center itself – the physicians, the care and how they focus on the patient. We can take patients from being very sick to living normally again. It's very rewarding to see."

Jennifer can't say enough about her experience with The University of Kansas Health System throughout her transplant journey.

"Ive been very blessed to have a really good team around me, including the surgeons and those who helped my family while I was there," she says. "And every time I go in for a follow-up, I've had wonderful care."

Now, Jennifer is living life fully post-transplant, and she wants to share her journey with others living with PKD.

"Today, I feel like I don't even have kidney disease or a transplant," she says. "I'm able to do everything I want to do – work, exercise, travel – everything I want or need to do. I want people to know they can live a very long, healthy life with kidney disease."

And at The University of Kansas Health System, Jennifer says, "You can work with people who are very caring, knowledgeable and invested in kidney disease and in helping people just like me."