May fights back after kidney transplant
Peta May knows how to face adversity. Despite serious health issues, including a kidney transplant in December 2012, she persevered and completed coursework at Panola College in the Health Information Technology program.
It all began when she was fourteen and began to experience dizziness, headaches, and fainting. She then looked for answers when she was referred by her pediatrician to have lab work done. After reviewing the results, her doctor realized her kidneys were failing and sent her to the emergency room for hemodialysis.
With no family history and no prior symptoms of illness, Peta was shocked at the diagnosis. However, she was forced to drive three days a week for dialysis treatments that lasted four hours each. In the summer after she finished eighth grade, she received her first transplant at Willis Knighton. Both her kidneys had completely failed. After the transplant, she then had to take anti-rejection drugs and had acute rejections leaving her hospitalized on and off throughout high school.
“Somehow, I still managed to graduate on time with my class,” she says, proudly.
A couple of years after high school, her new kidney had failed. They had to then remove the kidney because it was attacking her body and causing her sickness. At the time Peta was attending school in San Angelo, but came back to Carthage where they had their own dialysis center. She received treatments at the dialysis center until she was able to do peritoneal dialysis, an at-home treatment program. Since the treatments lasted nine hours, she was able to do them at night while she slept. In addition to giving herself the dialysis treatments, she also had to give herself shots to keep her blood count up. The procedures made her extremely weak and tired, generally leaving her feeling terrible all the time. But she had to toughen up and learn to live with it because she knew there was nothing to do about it. Peta proceeded by working at the Carthage Jalapeno Tree, Buck’s Pizza, and even Panola College as a work study.
Peta went for a time without being a candidate for another transplant.
“After my first kidney failed, I just didn’t know if I could go through it all again,” she said.
Eventually, she was placed on the transplant list at ETMC Tyler with the expectation that it might be 10 years before a suitable kidney would be found. All kidneys are put on a national registry and she was number six on the list. Three years later, however, she received the call she had been waiting for. Her kidney had been from Oklahoma, a cadaver transplant. The donor was an eighteen year old young man, who had been killed in an accident. The blood type, tissue type, and cross-match were perfect. Number one on the transplant list, another patient in the Tyler area, had gotten his kidney from the same donor. Numbers two, three, four, and five on the list were not suitable candidates for these two kidneys.
“It was a miracle,” she said.
On December 23, 2012, the surgery was performed. She was in the hospital for four days, but with the Tyler hospital’s length of stay lower than national average, she was released sooner than she expected. Peta went to stay with a friend for a month and is now back in her own apartment. She has not had problems with her new kidney and is on new medication to prevent rejection.
She had always been interested in the medical field and wanted to go to school for nursing, but was afraid that with all her medical problems, she wouldn’t be able to complete the program. She began by taking few hours a semester, and was even president of the HITSA one year.
How is life after the new transplant? Peta says she previously had to go to the doctor twice a week, but now it’s down to once a week, allowing her to participate in Christian Bible study groups. Before the transplant she was on a limited diet where she wasn’t allowed to eat “all the good stuff.” Now she can eat anything she wants except grapefruit because it prevents the anti-rejection medication from working.
“That’s ok because I don’t like grapefruit anyway,” she said.
And she continues to keeps a look out for signs and symptoms to watch for in a notebook of information she keeps at home.
“I am very appreciative of my family, friends, Panola College staff and members of the community for all the prayers and support I’ve received. They have been very encouraging and uplifting,” she said.