By Madeline Sullivan
Jessica Clifford of Brandon was 32 when she was diagnosed with Fibrillary Glomerulonephirtis, a rare disease that affects the individual filtering units of the kidney. Over a period of time, the filtering units get damaged and are replaced by scar tissue. Therefore, the kidneys begin to lose its ability to filter blood which often leads to end-stage kidney disease.
Clifford is 1 in 8 people under 50 in the world to be diagnosed with this rare disease. As a single mother of two who worked full time, Clifford was determined to not let this set her back. She continued to work full time at the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, until she had a level 5-brain aneurysm. The aneurysm put Clifford in a coma for two months. The day before doctors were going to take her off of life support, she woke up.
Clifford goes to dialysis three times a week to remove any waste, salt, and extra water to prevent any buildup in her body and to control her blood pressure. She described dialysis as, “life support, I just get to go home in between.”
In end stage kidney failure, the kidneys do not get better and dialysis is needed for the rest of ones life, unless you get a new kidney, which is what Clifford has been patiently waiting for. She has been on the list for a kidney transplant since 2009.
With many friends and family stepping forward to donate a kidney to Clifford, none of them have matched her blood type. Although having type O blood makes someone a universal donor, they can only receive from people who also have type O blood. This has made it very difficult to find a live donor. A live kidney donor ensures that Clifford will live a longer life with a lower rejection rate. As important as it is for Clifford to have a kidney transplant, she said, “this is hard for me as it is, I don’t like to ask for things.”
When donating a kidney, it is most often removed by a surgery called laparoscopic. During this type of surgery, thin incisions and a telescopic viewing device are used instead of large open incisions. Recovery time for kidney donors is anywhere between four to six weeks, with a hospital stay of only two to four days.
Becoming a donor is simple. To become a living donor, or to inquire about becoming one, call 844-5669 to speak to a donor coordinator at Tampa General Hospital. A brief phone interview will be done for those who want to become a donor and then a blood test and a full body exam will be scheduled.