| Kidney disease | Patient stories | Transplant

Coworkers Come Together and Save a Life

March 03, 2022, 1:31pm EST

Jeanine Ramirez and her donor, Jimmie Deibert

In 2021, Jeanine Ramirez received heartbreaking news. Even with dialysis, her kidney function was too low, and she was given only six months to live. As a single mother, she was terrified but did her best to continue forward and make arrangements for her daughter. That was until an email changed everything.

Jeanine Ramirez's story

Jeanine was shocked to learn of her kidney disease in 2018. She didn't have any symptoms or indications that her kidney function or estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was below 50, but a kidney biopsy confirmed the diagnosis. She was left wondering how to navigate this new world while working and raising a daughter as a single parent.

What caused Jeanine's kidney damage?

Reading through a list of drugs that could have harmed her kidneys, one stood out: Topamax, an anti-seizure and migraine medicine Jeanine used for ten years. When taken with NSAIDS, like ibuprofen, kidney damage may occur. 

Jeanine was unaware of this. Hoping to slow the progression of the disease, she stopped the medication immediately, cut out salt, and tried her best to live healthily. Despite these changes, her eGFR declined sharply over three years, and she started peritoneal dialysis at home to spend more time with her daughter.

Confirming the worst

When Jeanine learned that she had only six months to live without transplantation, she registered with a transplant center in Georgia. However, her doctor informed her that the wait time could take up to 10 years in their state. Jeanine didn’t have that long.  

She reached out to distant relatives and shared the story on social media. However, after a few months with no luck, she decided it was more important to spend her remaining time focused on her daughter. 

If you, like Jeanine, are struggling to find a living donor, know that you are not alone. Let us help you start the conversation.

A little help from our friends

While Jeanine continued working, she was preoccupied with making final arrangements. Her slow responses alarmed Jane, a coworker, and a friend who asked if everything was ok. Upon learning that Jeanine was making these arrangements, she sprang into action and got tested to donate. A preexisting condition made that impossible, but this hiccup didn't stop Jane.  

After Jane learned she couldn't donate, she had an idea. What if they sent out a company-wide email to over 200 hundred employees sounding the alarm and asking for help. 

Jeanine agreed, and within 30 minutes of sending it, life-changing news arrived: Jimmie Deibert, a coworker in Oklahoma, wanted to donate his kidney. 

A moment to remember

While Jeanine feared Jimmie wouldn’t be a match, he felt this was his purpose and wholeheartedly believed it would work out. He was correct! At a 99.9% match, the surgery was scheduled. Within a few weeks, Jeanine went from writing a living will to preparing for a transplant and her second chance at life.

The importance of support

Three months after surgery, Jeanine is incredibly grateful but still feels lingering anxiety. She's not going through it alone, though, and credits therapy and online support groups for helping ease her fears, saying,

"You'll be amazed how many other people have gone through this, and they'll tell you how they're coping."

A community can help us navigate through tough times. Are you a transplant recipient or a donor looking for a community of your own? Connect with others just like you through our Transplant Community!

Listen to what your body is saying

When asked if she had any parting words of wisdom, Jeanine recommended everyone be proactive in their health by: 

  • getting regular, in-depth checkups
  • listening to your body
  • advocating for yourself within the healthcare system

Not sure where to start? Take this one-minute quiz to learn if you are at risk of developing kidney disease- it might just save your life. 

Share your story

Do you have a unique or inspiring story about your experience with a kidney transplant, living donation, or kidney disease? Share it with us. Your story may be the one that gives someone hope.

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