Melissa Bensouda, of Lee’s Summit, recently rode the Donate Life Rose Parade Float in Pasadena, Calif. in the Tournament of Roses Parade.
She shared how much the transplant meant to her with families of donors and other transplant recipients.
“It was a very humbling experience,” she said. Her transplanted kidney came from a deceased donor. She said those who look beyond their immediate grief to give to others are “heroes.”
She explained to them how the transplant gave her freedom for a fuller life with her family. She no longer missed her children’s school events because of being on dialysis. .
“I assured the grieving families that organ, tissue and eye donation not only save lives of the recipients, it saves lives of the people who love them,” Bensouda said.
While she had to be strong and endure emotional and financial strain because of her illness, she said, she could see the donors were much stronger.
Bensouda is an advocate for organ donation, giving talks to raise awareness and conducting fundraisers, taking time from her fulltime jobs as a working mom employed with DST Systems.
Her life took that turn a little over a decade ago, going on waiting list for a kidney transplant.
She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease when she was 24, having just given birth to a second daughter. After her third child, a son, was born, she lost all kidney function and not only had to cope with her disease, but with he was 15-weeks premature and had health issues of his own.
Bensouda was going to visit him in the neonatal intensive care unit when she fainted in a hospital elevator. She had lost all kidney function, she had an overload of fluid and blood toxicity. Both kidneys were eventually removed and she immediately went on dialysis to continue living.
Her son was born legally blind, went home on oxygen five weeks later, with severe autism. She was getting treatments at clinic while trying to care for her newborn son and a nurse suggested home dialysis.
She took six weeks of training. A catheter was implanted in her arm, so she could attach herself to the machinery every other night.
Overnight, so she could continue her job and take care of her children. Every other night, about 8 p.m. she had prepare the machinery that would cleanse her blood while she slept.
Up at six-o’clock the next morning, she’d get off the machine, shower, then get her children ready for school and go to work. It was pretty limiting.
She said she couldn’t have managed without support of family, friends and her healthcare providers.
She was on a donor list for nearly ten years, on April 16, 2012 her doctor called her at 3 a.m. that morning to tell her a donated kidney had matched her. Even so, one week after the transplant, a biopsy showed signs her body was rejecting the donor organ, so she underwent chemotherapy, ant-rejection medications, steroids and six weeks of living in a quarantined house without her children.
Now she’s living without aid of dialysis and continues to promote awareness.
“Now I have freedom,” she said.