The Emerson family of Washington, from left to right, Travis, Kim, and Kandace. (contributed photo)
Kim Emerson is on a long journey through cancers, kidney failure, organ transplants and long recuperations. The 39-year-old Washington wife of Travis and mother of Kandace is now in line for a second kidney transplant. Kim is exceptional. As a teenager, she had eighteen months of chemotherapy to treat a tumor on her rib. She made it into recovery and went on with her life.
She and her husband, Travis, were married in 2011. In 2013, when her daughter, Kandace, was just a year old, Kim was diagnosed with kidney cancer and her left kidney was removed. In the meantime, the chemo she had during the tumor treatment years before had damaged her heart which finally required a heart transplant in 2018. The new heart was protected by anti-rejection drugs, but those strong medicines led to damage to Kim’s remaining kidney. That had led to the search for a kidney donor again.
Finding the donor whose organ has the best chance of success is complicated, time-consuming, and nerve-wracking. Kim says the Tufts Medical Center team, in Boston, is very helpful and supportive of patients facing these devastating health conditions and provides education and assistance with solving the many challenges they face.
Because no one in Kim’s family was a good match for donating an organ and because she has a rare blood type that seldom arrives in the organ bank, Kim and the team knew she would need a live donor rather than an organ from the organ bank. With emotion in her voice, Kim says that her special angel donor has been found. So, now the count down to the transplant begins.
Kim is currently being treated using an AV graft device that facilitates the work of the non-functioning kidney (blood cleansing). When her body is ready, the operation will be scheduled. After it’s performed, Kim will remain in the hospital, being monitored for organ rejection, infection, and any other changes. Once she is released to home, she will be traveling back and forth to Tufts Medical Center, in Boston, every week for six months of observation and tests that are routine for post-operation patients. Six more months of less frequent (probably bi-weekly) Boston trips and then regular trips to Maine Medical Center, in Portland, essentially forever.
The cost of these trips is one of the many expenses beyond the med-surg fees and it is a focus of a community fundraising supper planned for Friday, November 11, (Veterans Day) from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The supper is supported by Washington’s nonprofits Central Maine Bird Fanciers, Evening Star Grange, Four 4-H, Mt. Olivet Masons, Prescott Memorial Parent Teacher Organization, The Village Church, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Auxiliary, Washington Town Office, and Washington Fire Dept. Auxiliary. The meal will include homemade baked beans, casseroles, salads, biscuits, beverages and desserts. The cost is $12 for adults and $5 for children. If you would like to make a larger donation, simply add it when you buy your meal.
There are over 110,000 individuals on waiting lists for organ transplants here in the USA and only about 35,000 organs available. This website helps understand the basics for donors and recipients. Anyone considering being a living donor can contact Tufts Medical Center in Boston (617-636-5000) and ask for a transplant coordinator. The website at Tufts concerning being a living donor is https://livingdonortufts.org .
Organ donors are literally life savers. Kim Emerson says nobody knows better than she that “organ donors save lives.” She knows that better than most and is continuously grateful for all the support through this long journey.