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In 2011, Marsha Ormand didn’t know why, but she suddenly wasn’t feeling well.
She made an appointment with her physician, who discovered the reason. Her kidneys weren’t doing what they were designed to do.
“I went to my doctor and she did blood work and found my creatinine level was way up,” Ormand said. “It was 3.2 (milligrams) when a normal level is about 1.2.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, a high serum creatinine level generally means kidneys aren’t working well.
Ormand was sent to a nephrologist (kidney doctor) who examined her and found her creatinine levels to be about 2.0 milligrams.
The specialist, she said, told her this level was normal and he didn’t need to see her for another six months.
She underwent a battery of blood tests and all were normal except for results of her creatinine levels.
“I went to a nephrologist in Charlotte who said this was not normal,” Ormand said. “She gave me medicine to lower the (creatinine) levels but they continued to go up.”
Despite intravenous medications, Ormand said her creatinine levels still increased to 5.1 milligrams. And then, she was told she’d have to go on dialysis because her kidneys were functioning at about 15 percent, she said.
Dialysis is the artificial process of eliminating waste (diffusion) and unwanted water (ultrafiltration) from the blood, a process kidneys naturally do.
Some people, such as Ormand, may have failed or damaged kidneys which cannot carry out the function properly and need dialysis.
Instead of taking hemodialysis at a dialysis center, Ormand opted for in-home peritoneal dialysis.
Ormand had a tube inserted in her stomach to do the treatments at home from May 2012 until her transplant surgery in August of 2013.
“I was on that machine from 8:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., five days a week,” she said. “I had 20 feet of tubing and could just go the range of that tubing from my bathroom to halfway up my hall. When it got to be seven o’clock at night, I’d start to dread it.”
And it wasn’t just the nightly treatments that made her anxious. It was what she had to do to get ready for them.
Ormand said she had to be careful to keep her environment sterile – she couldn’t use a ceiling fan, her dog couldn’t come into the bedroom and she and her husband both had to wear masks.
This past April, Ormand was notified she was on the list to receive a kidney.
Her younger sister, Penny Glaeser, wanted to donate the kidney. While the sisters’ blood matched, their proteins didn’t, Ormand said.
Then, Ormand’s middle sister, Tammy Dingler, underwent tests and doctors found she was a match.
The sisters arrived at the hospital at 5 a.m. Aug. 13, for the transplant surgery and all went well.
“It sits right here,” Ormand said pointing to her lower abdomen. “They don’t take your old kidney out because they say more damage would be done to the other organs trying to get it out.”
After the transplant, Ormand and Dingler remained in the hospital for five days and were discharged.
“The kidney works great,” Ormand said. “We always teased Tammy because she went to the bathroom a lot. Now, I tell her I have to go a lot.”
Ormand said doctors still haven’t found the reason for her kidney problems. She has neither diabetes nor high blood pressure.
The dialysis, though difficult, and the transplant were important to Ormand for four reasons – Evan, and Jake, both 10, and Kaelynn and Luke who are both five years-old.
Given that, Ormand said she doesn’t take the time God gives her with her family and friends for granted.
“I don’t think I could go one day – nor could I imagine not seeing my grandchildren grow up,” she said.
Ormand’s husband, Joe, to whom she’s been married for 41 years, also factored greatly in her decision. Ormand said though her husband hates hospitals, he stayed by her side during her entire visit.
“He’s always been my sounding board,” she said “He’s always been there for me.”
Dingler recalls the experience as “a good one overall.”
She said it was a privilege to help her big sister who is 12 years her senior and also her “mother figure.”
“It was a big experience and I had to go through a lot of testing,” Dingler said. “I’m glad to be able to help her to have a healthy life. I’d do it all over again – she’s like my second mama.”
As for Ormand’s feelings about Dingler, she said she “can never thank her enough.”
“It’s made us closer,” Ormand said. “She teases me, ‘Don’t have this problem again, I don't have another kidney to give you!'”
Contact reporter Denyse Clark at (803) 283-1152