When 32-year-old Brooke Anderson of Nashville, Tennessee, received a diagnosis of kidney disease in 2018, she was almost relieved. “I am very in tune with my body, and I had a kidney infection the year before,” she said. “I had been keeping an eye on it, but didn’t bounce back the way I should have. I had a feeling that something was off.”
Already living with Type 1 diabetes, Brooke was accustomed to working with doctors to keep her health in check. She altered her diet and tried different medications to stabilize her blood pressure, but her health continued to decline. “I couldn’t walk to the mailbox,” she said. “I couldn’t stand for very long. I had to nap just to get through the day. I tried eight or nine blood pressure medications, but nothing seemed to work.”
Kidney transplants can treat kidney disease
After Brooke landed in the hospital for yet another spike in her blood pressure, her nephrologist referred her to Dr. Derek Mooreand the care team at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West Kidney Transplant Center in Nashville, TN informed Brooke that dialysis and an eventual kidney transplant were her only remaining options for treatment.
“I never thought it would come to this, but once I received the news, my sister and two brothers immediately went for testing to see if they might be a match,” Brooke said. Meanwhile, the Ascension Saint Thomas care team urged Brooke to proceed with a plan to start dialysis by having a port implanted.
On the day Brooke was scheduled for port surgery, her older sister, Brittany Anderson, found out she was a match. “I called and said, ‘Sign me up!’” Brittany said. “We are super close, and it would have been devastating to lose my baby sister knowing I had an opportunity to help her. I couldn’t stand to see her suffering. I wanted to get her as healthy as possible, as quickly as possible.”
After several more weeks of testing to ensure that Brittany’s kidney had the potential for a successful transplant, a surgery date was set.
Support throughout your kidney transplant care
To make sure Brooke and Brittany were mentally ready for this life-changing experience, the Anderson family rallied around the sisters. “My family was so supportive,” Brooke said. “It’s important to have people in your life who love you and are willing to be there with you every step of the way.”
The Ascension Saint Thomas care team also rallied around Brooke and Brittany. They took time to listen to their concerns. They answered questions and walked them through the transplant process. They even changed the transplant date so that Brooke could attend her brother’s wedding. “I thought I would need to bring my own support system, but what I didn’t realize is that the other half of my support was already there waiting for me,” Brooke said. “The care, the knowledge, the reassurance …from top to bottom, every last person who works at the Kidney Transplant Center was there, cheering me on.”
Three days after the wedding, the sisters underwent surgery, Brittany to remove her kidney and Brooke for the transplant. Both surgeries were successful.
Brooke spent three days in intensive care and several more in the hospital before being released. “At first I was afraid to go home, even though Brittany and I had moved in together so that we could heal together,” Brooke said.
Recovery time varies for each patient, but within the first week after her transplant, Brooke was on her feet without the use of a cane or walker. “It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done mentally, physically, and emotionally, but I’m hard-headed and felt like the best thing for me to do was to get my body back in the habit of being normal,” she said.
It took around three months for Brooke to recover. She stayed motivated by remembering her grandfather who had undergone two kidney transplants. “He is definitely one of my inspirations,” she said. “He always told me, ‘You gotta fight while there’s still fight left in you.’ I think about that every day. It’s what kept me going.”
Brooke also relied on the continued support from the Ascension Saint Thomas care team to hold her accountable in her journey to full health. “They give me advice,” she said. “They are always smiling. They get excited for me when I reach milestones. In some hospitals, you’re just a case or a name. But here, I am a person and these are my people. I could not imagine going through this experience without them.“
A second chance with a new kidney
Every day since her transplant, Brooke has grown stronger. She feels better than she ever has. She is finally able to gain weight and because she has more energy, she visits the gym at the Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West Wellness Center regularly and has even started singing again — all of which were impossible for her to do before her transplant. Encouraged by the Wellness Center care team, Brooke is even considering training for the Transplant Games of America in 2024. “I am committed to honoring my sister’s kidney,” Brooke said. “I want to come back even better than before.”
Brooke has also resumed her work mentoring diabetes patients — only now, she reaches out and mentors transplant patients as well. Her message: “Getting a transplant is not a death sentence. Honestly, my life since the transplant has been amazing,” Brooke said. “I’m literally doing so many things I never thought that I would do. A transplant is not something that I would have chosen for myself, but it has changed my life in the most positive way. You really can turn this thing into something beautiful.”
Personalized kidney transplant care for donors and recipients
At Ascension Saint Thomas Kidney Transplant Center in Nashville, TN, our nephrologists and transplant surgeons deliver personalized care for end-stage renal disease and chronic kidney failure. Our doctors listen to understand your health needs and provide comprehensive care.