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Priscilla Deshayes

It's like winning the lottery

For Priscilla Deshayes, kidney disease seemed to come out of nowhere.

But the cure came from a family member and four other kidney donors whose generosity resulted in five kidney transplants that occurred in Minneapolis and Fargo during July 2010.

Deshayes had been living with kidney disease since 1998. With medicines, a careful diet and close monitoring by her doctor, she was able to avoid dialysis for many years. But in 2009, she began dialysis, which required driving to the Twin Cities from her home near Brainerd three times a week. Shortly afterward, she was approved for a transplant through Abbott Northwestern's Kidney Transplant Program and was placed on the transplant waiting list.

Deshayes continued her job working weekends at a group home in the Twin Cities. She typically had dialysis on Fridays before starting her work shift and again on Mondays before going home. She returned for dialysis on Wednesdays.

She also began preparing herself for a transplant. She lost 60 pounds and she decided to write a letter to family members and close friends.

"No one owes you a kidney," said Deshayes. "I really believe that. I wanted to let my family and friends know that I knew they loved and cared about me, whether or not they wanted to be a donor. If you're a donor, it has to be your choice and you have to feel good about it."

John Tracy, who is married to Deshayes' stepdaughter, decided he wanted to help. Unfortunately, his kidney was incompatible. "But John is the kind of guy, once he decides on something, he's not going to give up," said Deshayes.

Tracy learned that he could still help by enrolling in the paired exchange donor program, which matches an incompatible donor/recipient with other donors and recipients who are compatible.

Deshayes' transplant occurred after a person in Minneapolis elected to donate a kidney to the most compatible recipient on the waiting list. The kidney was a match for a recipient in Fargo in the paired exchange pool. The Minneapolis kidney was flown to Fargo and a kidney from Fargo was driven to Minneapolis, ultimately leading to four more transplants in Minneapolis. This included Deshayes and another recipient at Abbott Northwestern.

Deshayes' donor ended up being a perfect match. "It's like winning the lottery," said Deshayes. "I can't say enough about the team who took care of us. The experience was a blessing."