Kidney recipient on the mend

Samantha Perkins

Samantha Perkins was recently able to get a kidney transplant after nearly a year of waiting, but her kidney troubles began six and a half years ago.

It all started in early 2016 when Perkins, originally from Waterloo, was living in Fairfax, Va.

“Late March, I went to the hospital because my roommate started really noticing that there was something wrong with me,” Perkins said. “At that point I was just … not getting around well. I fell a couple of times, and he kind of decided for me that we’re going to the hospital.”

After a few days, Perkins was told her kidneys were failing. This began a long stint in a number of hospitals including a hospital in Fairfax, Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and the National Rehab Hospital, where she did the bulk of her physical therapy.

She ended up at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in St. Louis in September 2016 before coming back home to Waterloo in mid-October.

Perkins said she was able to start hemodialysis when she got out of the hospital, receiving care at Fresenius Kidney Care Dialysis Center in Waterloo.

In early 2017, Perkins was told she was a good candidate for peritoneal dialysis, which involves using the lining of the abdomen to filter blood.

After undergoing surgery to have the abdominal catheter for the process placed, Perkins was able to go through dialysis at home in her sleep for about one and a half years.

As she was undergoing tests for transplant candidacy, her kidneys briefly improved and she was able to get off dialysis for a time. While her doctor said he’d never seen such a change before, Perkins said she was also told to hedge her bets.

“Luckily, when I went off dialysis my doctor said up front ‘You don’t need dialysis now, but your kidneys are gonna get worse. It’s gonna happen,’” Perkins said. “So I kind of knew the whole time that I was off I was like ‘Well, I know eventually it’s gonna come back and eventually I will still need a transplant.’”

Perkins’ kidneys did end up getting worse a year later, and she was back on dialysis in September 2020. She was later able to continue her candidacy testing and get on the transplant list in July 2021.

At first, Perkins was concerned that the year off dialysis would count against her when determining how long she would have to wait on the list, but the hospital was able to track down the paperwork for her original dialysis treatment and expedite her wait.

What followed was a year-long lull of sleeping through nightly dialysis treatments and regular check-ins to confirm there weren’t any changes in her condition.

But that wait ended about a month ago.

“Suddenly they called me at like 4 a.m. and they were like ‘We have a kidney match for you, what time can you get here?’” Perkins said. “So it was very surreal that day I went in.”

Perkins is still recovering from her July surgery. She said she’s still dealing with pain from the surgery as well as the remaining weakness in her legs from her time spent in the hospital, but she’s working through it.

“Physically I feel pretty good. Some soreness at the incision, stuff like that,” Perkins said. “Mentally it’s still kind of crazy, the freedom at night not having to be hooked up to a machine the whole time. Just overall I’m surprised at how good I feel.”

She said she’s got other health problems to focus on now – specifically diabetes – but she looks forward to finding a job after this long period of health issues and is generally anticipating the future positively.

“The kidney problems are gone, everything’s working well as it should,” Perkins said. “I’m really happy about not having to deal with that at all.”

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