Missy Brunner was a single mom of four young kids, working full time as a licensed practical nurse in a long-term care facility on Cincinnati's West Side. She wasn't surprised she felt exhausted. When she passed out in the shower in June 2009, she chalked it up to anemia and went to the doctor for blood tests.
She was surprised when her doctor called the next day on her way to work and told her to get to the nearest emergency room. At the hospital, surprise turned to disbelief when she learned she was in kidney failure. Kidney stones had destroyed both kidneys. She had two options: dialysis or hospice.
"I actually considered hospice," recalls Missy, who was 36 at the time. But knowing how much her four kids needed her, she reconsidered.
She began dialysis three times a week and returned to work. She also connected with Paula Frankhauser, RN, a transplant nurse with The Christ Hospital Health Network transplant program, who arranged tests to determine if Missy was healthy enough to go on the kidney transplant list.
By the end of 2010, Missy's kidneys were so infected they had to be removed. But fortunately, she'd been approved for the transplant list.
Though Missy says her family settled into a routine and most of the time she "felt like me," she faced hurdles. She lost her job in 2012, and she and her kids moved to the Oxford, Ohio, area to be near her parents. Soon after, it looked like her brother was a likely donor, but further tests revealed that he wasn't a close enough match.
"I think I coped well with all of it," she recalls. "I'm a nurse; that's what we do. But the waiting was frustrating. I wanted it done yesterday. I wanted my life back."
On March 11, 2013, it looked like she was going to get what she wanted. Her brother's kidney had gone to someone in Columbus who had a family member willing to donate to Missy. But during the kidney transplant surgery, she hit another hurdle—an allergic reaction to the anesthesia caused her heart to stop for 40 minutes. Missy recovered but didn't get the kidney.
Transplant team goes to bat for Missy
That experience made getting back on the transplant list difficult. But Missy says she had the right people in her corner: her transplant team at The Christ Hospital Health Network.
"They fought for me and said it was worth the risk, explaining that I was a young woman with kids," she says. "I didn't have another option."
They won the fight. On July 21, 2016, Missy underwent a successful kidney transplant.
"I can't thank the team at Christ enough for their compassion and support. They make sure you're taken care of," says Missy.
With a clear path ahead, Missy is celebrating by giving back. Between volunteer work and running her kids to sports practices, 4-H and school activities, she's extreme couponing in her spare time. She buys personal care items with the coupons and donates the items to homeless shelters and patients undergoing dialysis.
Missy is also celebrating by looking ahead. She starts school in May to become a registered nurse.
"Sometimes God calls you and tells you, 'Hey, you need to do this.' I believe He wants me in the kidney field," she says. "I want to do anything I can for awareness and the transplant field."
Learn more about our transplant program and why it's been recognized as a Center of Excellence by Optum. Additionally, you, too, can share your story with us and become a Healthspirations Patient Ambassador!