Kidney disease changed our lives in a day

April 14, 2021, 2:30pm EDT

A photo of Tyler and Alison

As told by: Alison Gillespie


Many of us often talk about life being short and how much we need to live life each day to the fullest; valuing the small, ordinary moments. For those of us who have navigated significant life changing events, we know the seemingly small, ordinary moments in life are really the only moments that matter. 

December 18, 2018 is a day that I will never forget. This is the day that Tyler Nisbet, my younger brother and only sibling, was admitted to the hospital with kidney failure. 

The day was a blur as I watched Tyler and his wife, Liz, navigate the very scary news that he would need dialysis and an eventual kidney biopsy to determine the cause of his kidney failure. Later in the week, our family would find out that Ty would need a kidney transplant and must remain on dialysis until a donor kidney could be found. The news was devastating as Tyler had never had any known problems with his kidneys. Early diagnosis is critical in managing kidney disease and symptoms often don’t emerge until kidney disease progresses to an advanced stage. Ty didn’t know that the symptoms he was having were indicative of kidney disease. When he entered the hospital, he was in a very critical state. I could have lost my brother that day. At the time, he was 38 years old.

After his diagnosis, I started doing research and quickly found the National Kidney Foundation. I reached out and Carly and Mallory responded instantly. We met the next week and I quickly found comfort in talking with two knowledgeable, caring, and dedicated professionals who knew what we were going through in a way that others didn’t. It was truly the scariest point of my life and talking with them was such a comfort. They offered resources for Tyler, his family, our parents, and any one else who may need information or support. They also gave me ideas on how I could channel my emotions into advocacy around awareness of kidney disease, living donation, and dialysis. NKF continues to be a part of our family and an organization that we feel strongly about supporting. In fact, Tyler recently spoke at a Drive for Dialysis event, sharing his story, and thanking volunteers who assembled care packages for dialysis patients. 

Kidney disease changed our lives in a day. Since that day in 2018, Tyler endures 12 hours of dialysis each week while still working full time. His focus remains on his family which includes Liz and his two daughters, Carlie (13) and Raegen (6), whom he loves fiercely. My brother is an extremely strong man who uses his sense of humor to carry him through many of the most difficult times. He helps all of us remember the small, ordinary moments of life are truly the ones that matter most. Whether it be family popcorn and movie nights with his girls and wife, holiday traditions with our cousins and extended family, boating days in the summer, fishing with family or friends, and/or being a gymnastics Dad; Tyler shows up every single time- no matter how exhausted he may be from dialysis! He has taught so many of us what it means to persevere in the most difficult of times while prioritizing the people who matter most in your life and infusing laughter into each day.

Tyler is currently looking for a living donor and is a patient at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. He has also started an advocacy group called “Ty’s Team” that does awareness events around the Twin Cities. Ty recently turned 40 and our resolve remains steady that he will get his kidney and will survive this most difficult time! While I wish my brother never got sick, I believe that our family was given a mission to use our story to ensure that nobody else’s world changes in a day the way that ours did. I’m grateful for NKF and blessed to support an organization that advocates so strongly on behalf of so many fighting kidney disease.