Katie Holland has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, including the five-year anniversary of her kidney transplant.
Holland, diagnosed with poly cystic kidney disease in 2005, was only 25-years-old at the time. After a routine physical indicated she had high blood pressure and she was diabetic, doctors put her on medication that caused her blood pressure to drop too low. One month after starting the medicine, Holland found herself in renal failure.
“Doctors always told me that there was the possibility that one day I would need a transplant, but it wasn’t something I really thought about at the time,” Holland said, recalling the days she began to experience a reduction in her kidney function.
In 2011, Holland began dialysis after her kidney function began to decrease, leaving her sick for days at the time. A transplant evaluation had been performed on Holland, and doctors advised her to begin asking around for a possible donor.
“Once my symptoms started to worsen, I put a message out on Facebook,” Holland said. “The doctors said the fastest way to get a kidney was to ask. So, I started to ask around.”
Felesia Buczynski knew Holland, as the two were in a Tom Wilbur production of “The Odd Couple” in 2006. While Buczynski says she was aware of Holland’s kidney troubles, she wasn’t aware of the severity and the possibility of her needing a transplant.
“I didn’t really know how serious it was,” Buczynski recalled. “I thought Katie had time to get a new kidney.”
Once she saw the Facebook message, Buczynski says she knew she had to do something, and agreed to be tested.
Many people offered prayers for Holland, but said they just didn’t feel they could take the additional step and be tested for a match. Holland says she understood, and much appreciated the prayers.
In all, three of her friends were tested, including Buczynski and Wilbur.
In August 2012, Holland and Buczynski learned that the transplant was possible, as Holland’s immune system would not attack the donated kidney.
“There was no stopping that woman at that point,” Holland said with a laugh. “She was dedicated to giving me her kidney.”
On Oct. 22, 2012, Holland received her last dialysis treatment and on Oct. 23, 2012, Buczynski’s kidney was transplanted into Holland.
“The transplant saved my life,” Holland shared. “I felt like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I got the golden ticket.”
One month ago, the two celebrated the five-year anniversary of the donation. Buczynski says she would do it all over again.
“I would have done it no matter what,” Buczynski said. “I would do it all over again. When I thought about the life Katie would have to live without having the transplant, I knew it was imperative to get the transplant done.”
Since the transplant, Holland says there have been minor setbacks and problems along the way, but nothing that has stopped her kidney from working.
“A transplant isn’t a cure,” Holland explained. “I will take medicine for the rest of my life to help my body not reject the kidney.”
While Holland says she is grateful for the gift of life, she admits that it’s impossible to put a number to the amount of gratitude she has for Buczynski and her donation.
“I walk around everyday thinking, ‘I can’t believe someone did this for me,’” Holland said. “It’s amazing to think about how selfless and amazing she is.”
The two now share a special bond, calling each other pet names like “Kidney Moma” and “Adopted Kidney Moma”. Each year on the anniversary of the transplant, the two get together to celebrate and Holland recognizes Buczynski for her gift of life.
“We are like sisters,” Holland said. “We have a special bond. She is part of me now. I’m lucky that I get to know her and talk to her and be a part of her life.”
After her experience, Holland returned to school and obtained her master’s degree in social work and now works with patients who have kidney disease and are on dialysis and in need of a transplant.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.