| Dialysis | Kidney disease | Patient stories | Transplant

Embracing a New Normal After Kidney Transplant

April 04, 2023, 10:38am EDT

Andrew y mamá donante contentos después de la cirugía de trasplante en el hospital

On Andrew Kendris' 25th birthday, a trip to the urgent care changed his life forever. What he thought was a rash turned into a diagnosis of kidney failure, shaking him to his core. 

But this was only the beginning of his story. 

Learn how Andrew's hope and determination got him through the challenging diagnosis and inspired him to find a new purpose: raising kidney health awareness and showing others with kidney disease that anything is possible.

Andrew's diagnosis

Kendris family at a marathon looking happy

Before diagnosis, Andrew was an active young adult. 

"I was living in New York trying to find my way throughout the city and build a career. I never had any alarming symptoms like swelling. In 2017, I went to the urgent care because I was experiencing overall body itching," said Andrew. "They gave me cream but couldn't pinpoint the cause." 

Andrew didn't know he was experiencing a little-known symptom of end-stage kidney disease–chronic kidney disease-associated pruritus or CKD-aP

"Soon after the urgent care trip, I went for a routine physical. I didn't feel sick but I got a blood test. The next day my doctor called and told me to go to the emergency room. They couldn't diagnose me over the phone but did say my kidney numbers didn't look right," Andrew said.

Andrew laying sick in bed with his father nearby looking worried

Andrew arrived, was called into an examination room, and soon after was diagnosed with kidney failure with only 5% kidney function.

"It was shocking. I'm sitting there, feeling perfectly fine not quite believing them," Andrew said. "I was 25 and didn't smoke, drink, or do anything that I thought could have caused this. We still don't know the cause. I was given this challenge and if I keep asking why, I'll lose the chance to see what I can do with it, how I can make it a part of my life, and really embrace it."

Are you at risk of kidney disease? Take this one-minute quiz to find out. It may just save your life.

Finding Andrew a transplant

Andrew and dad standing in hospital

As soon as Andrew was hospitalized, his family jumped into action.

"My husband, Alex, went right to New York and started researching kidney failure and kidney transplants. He is in the military so he immediately started planning, connected with National Kidney Foundation, and began figuring out a kidney diet," said Tina Kendris, Andrew's mother. "Andrew's brothers and I got tested to become donors. I prayed hard that it would be me since they might need their kidneys later on."

To Tina's delight, she was a match and physically able to donate.

Tina smiling with weights at gym

"As a jazzercise instructor, I was healthy enough even in my mid-50s to give him a kidney. I wasn't on any medications and lived a healthy lifestyle," Tina said. "I didn't have any fears about donating–it's a mama bear thing. We went to cross match day on April 24th and he had his new kidney by May 25th. We fast tracked the process."

Luckily, Andrew was able to stay off of dialysis due to the speed of the testing and his father's help.

Andrew in hospital with thumbs up

"I didn't need emergency dialysis which was part of Dad's amazing plan. I did speak with the dialysis folks about different options if the cross match didn't work," Andrew said. "I had one dialysis session the night before the transplant to give my body enough strength and make sure it was as clean as possible going into surgery the next morning. I only had to do one session but I learned so much about the treatment and feel fortunate I was able to avoid it."

Whether you need a kidney or are considering donating, let us help you start the conversation with The Big Ask Big Give program or try one of Kidney Learning Center's self-paced online courses.

Healing and joining Team Kidney Moves

Andrew and his mom Tina recovering in hospital

It took Andrew and Tina a few months to recover, but they are now both back to normal. 

"I'll be honest," said Tina. "It was really hard. That was the worst pain I ever felt in my life but I was back to teaching jazzercise six weeks after I gave the kidney. Other than feeling like I got hit by a truck during the first week, there are no residual problems for me."

"I had discomfort from the operation itself, but the medications and all the different antibiotics were the most taxing for me," Andrew said. "Still, the recovery gave me a chance to understand the magnitude of what I just went through. I knew this pain wasn't forever and that I would get through it. Five months later, I was back to a new normal."

Andrew embraced his new lifestyle by following a proper kidney transplant diet and exercising. Get in touch with others living with kidney transplants through NKF's Transplant Community.

Andrew running for Team Kidney Moves

"I picked up running because I want to stay off blood pressure medication since the anti-rejection medicines can cause hypertension. I found a race through one of my colleagues at work who's an ultra runner. He really motivated me to get into running and push myself to limits that are comfortable for me but also challenging," said Andrew. "I ran a 10K for National Kidney Foundation in 2019 and have been hooked ever since."

Since then, Andrew has run multiple marathons for Team Kidney Moves and hopes to continue sharing the importance of kidney health–especially with younger people with kidney disease.

Andrew with Mom holding medal from marathon

"I am doing my best to fundraise for kidney disease and ultimately share the importance of kidney health. I want to be the person I didn't have,” Andrew said. “I share my story to show those going through kidney disease at this age that your life doesn't end and it doesn't change. In fact, it can be better."

Not interested in running a marathon to raise kidney disease awareness? That's okay! Use your imagination to create a Team Kidney Your Way fundraiser. From a bake sale, wine tasting, or family reunion–the possibilities are endless!

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