Uncle saves niece who needed a second kidney transplant

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) - A local woman discovered she needed a kidney transplant for the second time after her first transplanted kidney failed. 

She felt lucky to have gotten the first one, the question soon became, could she get the second one in time?

"I'm so lucky to have another chance right now," said Brittany Ivan.

The 26-year-old has already been through more medically in the last 10 years than many o f us will go through in a lifetime.

"It was really hard," she said. Her medical troubles began back in 2003. That year Brittany went from an average 16-year-old worried about homework and getting to her tennis practice, to becoming gravely ill.

"Brittany had been healthy her whole life and then we went to the hospital and we were just told she had kidney failure," said her mother Brenda Ivan.

Thankfully, Brenda turned out to be a match for her daughter. Brittany did not have to wait five to seven years, the average wait on the National Kidney Registry. They had a successful transplant, but doctors gave Brittany an eerie warning at the hospital.

"They kinda told us, the medication we gave you did scar your kidneys. So, there's a possibility that you'll need another one down the road," said Brittany.

The years that followed the transplant were successful ones for Brittany. The Belleville woman graduated college and became a nurse. Then this past July, ten years later, the doctors words came back to haunt her. Her new kidney failed. She needed a second transplant.

"I just got my life together and it just fell apart again," said Brittany. Her own immune system and the medications she had to take after her transplant damaged the new kidney.

"Ironically, those medications can have some ill effects on kidney functions so if you're on them for many many years they accumulate damage," said Dr. Chris Sonnenday, a transplant surgeon at University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. He said it is common for a transplanted kidney to only last 10 years. Brittany's own immune system and the medications she had to take after her transplant damaged the new kidney.

"Ironically, those medications can have some ill effects on kidney functions so if you're on them for many, many years they accumulate damage," said Dr. Sonnenday.

The odds of receiving a second kidney seemed almost impossible. It is rare for a second family member to be a match, but that is exactly what happened with Brittany's uncle. He went through the testing and found out he could donate one of his kidneys to Brittany.

"I didn't even question it because I knew they would do it for me," said her uncle Phil Luke. The two underwent surgery at U of M at the end of last week and are both in recovery mode.

"I don't look at lit like saving her life, but maybe just giving her a second chance," said Phil.

"He just gave me another chance to live my life," said Brittany.

Brittany hopes her story will encourage anyone who has ever thought of it, to become an organ donor.

"The way they would change someone's life, it's the best gift they could ever give," said Brittany.

Friends and family have put together a ‘Bowling for Brit' fundraiser to help with medical expenses.  The fundraiser is May 4, 2013 at Lodge Lanes in Belleville and start at 8:30 pm.

You can also read about Brittany and her journey through her blog at: www.teambrittany.blogspot.com

 

 

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