BATON ROUGE — In her 44 years of life, Baton Rouge resident Brandy Dickinson has overcome many obstacles, but she needs help overcoming another — getting a new kidney.
Dickinson needs her second kidney transplant but has no way to turn as of now. She has been on dialysis for three years since she started having problems with the kidney donation she received from her oldest sister.
Dickinson said her sister was a perfect match and the transplant was performed in July 2007.
“Her miracle kidney worked great for almost 13 years,” Dickinson said. “I went as long as I could without dialysis but in December of 2020, her little bean couldn’t go any longer. I’ve been on dialysis since then.”
Dickinson said her body was different from birth.
“I was born premature and nothing developed,” she said. “Doctors weren’t sure if I was a boy or a girl when they first saw me. I had to have multiple surgeries after birth.”
She said the technical term of her condition was bladder exstrophy, which is a rare birth defect in which the bladder develops outside the fetus, according to The Mayo Clinic. The exposed bladder can’t store urine or function normally, resulting in urine leakage.
Dickinson explained she also had colostomy and ileostomy operations done. A colostomy is an operation that connects the colon to the abdominal wall, while an ileostomy connects the last part of the small intestine to the abdominal wall.
She had pelvic surgery at age 5 to turn her legs inward because both legs naturally turned outward.
“When I was 10, we went to Boston Children’s Hospital and I had a bladder reconstruction surgery that was 23 hours long,” she recalled. “They created a bladder out of my stomach and colon so I could get rid of my ileostomy that was a pain and leaked all the time. I was in Boston for five weeks, but it was a success.”
Dickson said she started going into renal failure in her mid-20s. After being on dialysis, Dickinson said she thought things were turning around when they found out her youngest sister was a perfect match.
The kidney donation was delayed because her sister had gotten pregnant but when they revisited the option in late April, she received bad news from Tulane.
“After having an appointment for months to go down there, meet with a social worker, nurse, and surgeon, get an echocardiogram done, I go to get my labs drawn and my coordinator drops the news of ‘I’m sorry, your sister cannot donate anymore’,” she said. “I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. Undoubtedly, someone there jumped the gun and didn’t check my sister’s CT scan. She has three arteries connected to her kidney. Being that my case is so complex, I can only receive a kidney from someone who has one artery. I’m still in disbelief because we had been working on tests and doing this for over a year. I need a new kidney with O+ or O- to save my life.”
“I wouldn’t be here without the help and amazing support I have from my wonderful family,” she added. “My mom has been there from day 1 by my side through everything. I met my wonderful fiancé 13 years ago, six months after my first transplant. He’s amazing! I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Dickinson said because of her O+ blood type and her anatomy, she can’t be put on a donor list. She said her insurance will pay for everything and she said she hopes someone takes the chance to donate.
“It would be wonderful,” she said. “It would give me a new lease on life because most people on dialysis, I think the average lifespan is five to 10 years is how long your body can actually take it. It’s just really hard on your body. That would give me a new lease on life and give me the chance to do things I really would like to do.”