The gift of life: Transplant recipient promotes need for organ donors of color

The gift of life: Transplant recipient promotes need for organ donors of color

PEWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Pewaukee woman is spreading a life-saving message after the generosity of strangers saved her life twice.

Take a walk with Jamila Hudson and you’ll learn she’s thankful for each step because back in March she went through her second kidney transplant.

“I was really blown away by how quickly I was able to get up and get back to walking,” said Jamila.

On March 11, 2020, Jamila received a living kidney transplant. It was the last transplant surgery performed at University Hospital before elective surgeries were temporarily postponed until late May.

“I just have an extreme sense of gratitude. I cannot believe I received a living donor and that I was the last surgery before everything was put to a halt because of COVID. I’m just extremely grateful. Extremely grateful,” Jamila said.

Jamila’s journey started years ago.

“My first kidney transplant was in June of 2012. My daughter is now 14 years old. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had preeclampsia so that was the first time there were any issues that could be related to my kidneys.  It’s a disease called FSGS… Basically your kidney filters are leaking and so you’re leaking out any good protein and any good nutrients that your body should hold in. You leak that out through your urine… I did dialysis for four and a half years. I had my first kidney transplant in 2012,” Jamila said. “I went a few years of being fine but then I started having an allergic reaction to one of the medications. That led to me being in the hospital for a few weeks and they couldn't figure out what was causing it. They finally discovered that one of my transplant meds was causing that allergic reaction and ultimately led to me needing another kidney.”

Now, she’s on a mission to encourage others to consider organ donation, specifically highlighting the need for more donors of color.

“August is actually National Minority Donor Awareness Month,” Jamila said.

“People of color are over-represented on the transplant waiting list so about a third of the waiting list is, especially African Americans, they are about 27 percent of the people getting a kidney transplant. So right there, they’re getting a kidney at a lower rate than what they’re listed, and they are about 15 percent of the donor pool which partially explains the disparities,” said Doctor Nikole Neidlinger with UW Health.

Dr. Neidlinger said the more alike a donor and recipient are genetically the better a kidney will continue to function.

“In order to get a kidney from another person, you need to be a tissue and a blood type match. Tissue and blood type is very similar across ethnicities so an African American waiting patient is going to benefit from an African American donor,” said Neidlinger.

For Jamila, it’s a message of awareness every step of the way.

“I would love to look that person in the eye and tell them how grateful I am and thank them, give them a very sincere message of thanks,” Jamila said.

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