Like all organ transplant recipients, Beverly Graham of Winston Salem has been through a lot. It all started in 2004 when she attempted to buy a life insurance policy and was turned down because of protein in her urine — a sign of a potentially serious kidney problem.
She began seeing a local nephrologist, followed his orders, and life went on. Then, in 2007 she was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), which can lead to kidney failure.
Graham and her doctors tried staving off illness with steroids and other treatments, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. “The blessing is I saw it coming,” says Graham. “We could plan for my dialysis.” She began dialysis and was put on the transplant list at Duke in January 2009.
Dialysis was no walk in the park, and Graham endured it for almost four years. She credits her friends, family, and especially her mother for getting her through it, with their love, support, and prayers.
Graham says she will never forget hearing her transplant coordinator telling her on September 12, 2012, that she would be getting a kidney from a living donor she did not know. A woman in New Jersey had wanted to donate a kidney to a friend, but she was not a match. So she offered her kidney to anyone who could take it, and her friend would receive another from a matching donor.
“When I found out I was getting kidney … it is very hard to express in words,” says Graham. “Afterwards, they asked if I wanted to meet my donor and I said yes. When we met we just embraced.” Both donor and recipient would learn that the first question they each asked after surgery was how the other was doing. “I am eternally grateful to my donor for her loving spirit in sharing life with me,” says Graham.
Graham says she is not only grateful to her donor, but to her surgeon, Bradley Collins, MD, and all the staff at Duke. “I felt like I was among family. And I don’t even like going to doctors. They are exceptional!”