June 16, 2010

Every year, Nancy Post buys herself a present. But it’s not a present to commemorate her birthday or another rite of passage. Rather, it’s a gift to celebrate the second chance at life she received 21 years ago.

On Aug. 30, 1988, at age 33, Post received a new kidney through Saint Luke’s Kidney Transplant Program. The procedure changed her life.

“Before kidney failure, I just went along my merry way,” said Post, now 55. “Since my transplant, I look at life differently—I don’t take sunsets for granted. It’s definitely given me a new focus.”

Coming of age—quickly

As a child, Post was diagnosed with Lupus. It’s a chronic immune system disorder that can affect your nervous system, joints, and such organs as the skin, heart, lungs, and kidneys. For some patients, Lupus is mild; for others, it can be life-threatening.

At 32, Post discovered Lupus had caused her kidneys to fail. Saint Luke’s Janardana Sharma, M.D., a board-certified nephrologist— or a doctor who specializes in kidney disorders, prescribed dialysis three times a week. Dialysis removes waste from the blood when the kidneys can no longer do the job.

“Dialysis can be depressing, because it makes you tired and restricts your daily activities and diet,” said Post. “It can be a roller coaster.” After four months on dialysis, Dr. Sharma recommended transplantation. Although Post’s 68-year-old father eagerly wanted to donate a kidney, Dr. Sharma insisted on a younger donor. She would have to be put on the transplant waiting list.

That Aug. 30th, after 16 months, Post received the call at 5 a.m., informing her a match had been found. “The nurse told me I needed to get here as soon as I could,” recalled Post, a Lenexa resident. “I swear, my dad and I flew down I-35 to Saint Luke’s on the Plaza.”

Life renewed

Any anxiety Post felt quickly faded while she awaited the presurgical lab work. She met two women in the hospital’s waiting room, both of whom had undergone transplants—and one who also suffered from Lupus.

“They shared their stories and told me exactly what to expect,” said Post. “They both looked great, so I said to myself, ‘Let’s go, I’m ready.’”

That afternoon, Post underwent the three-hour operation to receive her new kidney. The relief was immediate.

“I woke up tingling from head to toe and felt so much energy,” she recalled. “I knew I wanted to help other patients experience the same.”

Fast forward to present day. Now Post is the one telling prospective patients exactly what to expect through Saint Luke’s Kidney Transplant Program’s educational classes. She shares her story and urges patients to comply with the post-transplant protocols and checkups.

“I tell them that a transplant isn’t a cure for kidney failure, you have to do the work, take your medication, and live a healthy life,” said Post. “It’s kind of like playing a game: If you do well, you’ll win. If you don’t, you’ll have problems.”

Post practices what she preaches. To cut down on stress, she took an early retirement in 2004 from her job painting greeting cards for Hallmark. Now she’s using her artistic skills to help other transplant patients.

Each year, she donates artwork to the Kidney Transplant Program to be sold in raffles. Proceeds help needy patients pay bills, buy medication, and cover other expenses.

“I was blessed because I had good insurance and didn’t have to worry about these kinds of things while I was awaiting my surgery,” said Post. “It’s an easy way for me to give back and help others.”