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Clarion Woman Needs Second Kidney Transplant

Monday, March 23, 2020 @ 06:03 AM

Posted by Jill McDermott

transplantCLARION, Pa., (EYT) – Kim Girts eats well, exercises, and doesn’t smoke or drink – the 55-year-old Clarion resident appears healthy, but looks can be deceiving.

She’s constantly cold because her body doesn’t produce red blood cells. She’s often tired and achy. Her kidney function is only ten percent. She’s hoping to get a transplant before she needs to go on dialysis.

This is the second time she is looking for a donor.

Girts received a kidney transplant in October of 2016 from her 25-year-old nephew. Knowing the significance of the gift she was given, Girts was determined to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy her second chance at life.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough.

The transplant itself was a success; however, during a routine follow-up appointment three months later, a possible problem emerged.

“Bloodwork showed that I had a virus called the BK virus,” Girts told exploreClarion.com. “The doctor that I had at the time told me that as long as it’s in your urine, they don’t worry about it.”

BK virus is a virus that most people get in childhood, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Once you get a BK virus infection, the virus stays in your system for good. It does not cause a problem for most people because the virus becomes latent. Sometimes, when your immune system is not working well, the virus becomes active. Then, it can cause symptoms of infection. BK virus is also called polyomavirus.

In February of 2017, the doctor told Girts the virus would only be a concern if it showed up in her bloodstream. Later that month, the virus did appear in her bloodstream, but the doctor still felt that the virus concentration wasn’t high enough to cause concern.

That changed in March of that year when she saw a different doctor who told her the numbers had risen to an alarming level. Although treatment was started immediately, it wasn’t effective. By June of 2017, the virus had destroyed her ureter, the duct through which urine passes from the kidney into the bladder.

A tube was inserted to allow her urine to flow, but the tube came out. Two weeks later, Girts was hospitalized with sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to an infection.

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Girts was not allowed to get the tube wet, which meant no swimming or water-related activities. It also meant sponge baths and washing her hair over the sink.

“At first it was okay,” she said. “But, now it’s almost four years later, and it’s still the same.”

It’s possible to do a ureter transplant, but Girts said her creatinine level was too high due to her poor kidney function. Creatinine is a waste product produced by muscles from the breakdown of a compound called creatine. Creatinine is removed from the body by the kidneys.

She’s now seeking another transplant to avoid going on dialysis.

“When I’m on dialysis, I can’t function at all,” she said. “Dialysis is so hard on my body. Every day I was on dialysis, I passed out.”

She had to undergo dialysis three days a week. Each treatment was a six-to-seven-hour process, eating up almost her entire day.

“It took me the next day to recover,” Girts said. “Then, I would have to go back the day after that. I don’t want to do that again. I’ll do it if I have to, but I hope God will provide a different path.”

Girts has been sharing her story on social media, hoping to find those willing to be tested to become a possible donor.

She hopes people will be tested, not only to help her but also others in need of a transplant.

Anyone willing to be tested can volunteer to do so at livingdonorreg.upmc.com.

Girts said her insurance would cover the cost of those being tested to be a potential donor for her.

Matching donors also qualify for assistance to cover a portion of their travel, food, and housing costs for the actual transplant.

It is possible to receive a transplant from a deceased person who has donated their organs; but, the waiting list is six to seven years for a kidney, according to Girts.

Until she gets a transplant, Girts travels to Pittsburgh once a week for an injection to boost her red blood cells. She’s also required to travel there every two weeks for bloodwork. Every four to six weeks, she has to have the tube used to drain urine from her kidney surgically replaced.

She also takes what she calls “a lot” of medicine.

“I take 17 pills in the morning,” she said. “I take 12 pills at night. It’s just what I have to do.”

A transplant should restore her health completely.

When asked what she would do if she were to receive a transplant and regain her health, Girts didn’t hesitate.

Taking an actual shower for the first time in four years and washing her hair was high on her list, but there’s more.

“I would learn how to scuba dive!” She said with a huge smile. “I can snorkel, but I want to learn to scuba dive. I want to go and explore the underwater world and see the beauty of it.”


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