Jolene Everson receives a new kidney from a donor in Omaha, Nebraska

“I really do believe in the power of prayer; with prayer anything is possible,” Jolene Everson declared. on May 31, 2018, Everson received a call from the transplant team at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha telling her that they had matched her with a kidney donor.

Posted 7/19/18

By Lisa Nowatzki

Everson and her family quickly packed and drove 8.5 hours to Omaha and the Nebraska Medical Center. While there, Everson underwent a kidney transplant.

According to Everson, she had been on dialysis since she was diagnosed with kidney failure in February 2016. Doctors are unsure what caused her kidney failure, so dialysis and transplant lists were all new concepts to Everson. Whether it was undiagnosed high blood pressure or an infection in her heart, the results were the same-Everson needed a new kidney.

Initially, Everson was on the transplant list at the University of Minnesota for 2.5 years. After hearing about the short wait time on the Nebraska Medicine transplant list, Everson’s daughter suggested that she try getting on their transplant list.

In January 2018 Everson was evaluated and accepted in the Nebraska Medicine transplant program. After waiting only four months on their transplant list, Everson received a kidney. The transplant seemed to be the easy part.

After 2.5 years of sitting in a dialysis chair, Everson was ready for a change. She says that she met some great people and that the whole dialysis staff at Altru in Grand Forks were awesome, but she would not miss sitting in that dialysis chair.

Recovery is a long road for transplant recipients. Everson said that the whole recovery process could take up to a year. Even though each person is different, Everson thinks that her recovery process is going well. Her new kidney started working immediately, and she did not have to have any additional rounds of dialysis.

After surgery, on the drive home from Omaha, Everson had to stop walk and around every hour to prevent blood clots. She also had restrictions like no lifting things over ten pounds for six weeks, and she could not drive for two weeks after the surgery because of the side effects of the pain medicine she was taking.

Anti-rejection pills are now a part of Everson’s life. She takes many medications including three different anti-rejection meds and three different anti-infection medications. The anti-rejection meds help stop Everson’s body from attacking her new kidney.

Because the drugs suppress the immune system, Everson has to be very mindful of the sun. She has to wear sunscreen and protective clothing because some of the medications she has to take have made her a high risk for skin cancer. Happily, on a positive note, Everson does not have to limit her fluid and sodium intake since she received her new kidney. She said that was probably one of the hardest things for me to do.

Everson explained that there are five stages of kidney failure. She was in complete failure (stage five) when she was diagnosed with kidney failure in the emergency room in Langdon in February 2016. Currently, at six weeks post surgery, Everson’s new kidney has worked so well that she is in the high end of stage three kidney failure which is almost up to stage two, which is great.

Everson admitted that she was not one to go to doctors, however, she hopes that everyone who reads about her journey will realize how important it is to stay on top of your health. She also encourages everyone to do yearly checkups and to see a doctor when something is not right.

Her journey has not been an easy one. She lost her job of more than 30 years at Cavalier County Memorial Hospital because she was not able to work full-time because of her health. On a positive note, Everson said that she would miss the dialysis team at Altru.

“They were truly awesome, and I will miss them.” She also talked about the great people she met that were having dialysis like her. She spoke with a couple recovering at her hotel; one had just received a kidney from a coworker.

The transplant team tried to match Everson with a live donor, but because of a blood transfusion, she had high antibodies in her system that prevented her from matching a live donor.

Everson explained that she had to have ports for her dialysis treatments. First, she had a large bore catheter inserted for access, and eventually she had a fistula inserted into her arm to do dialysis.

An arteriovenous (AV) fistula created vascular access for the hemodialysis treatments. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) website, an AV fistula is the best type of long-term access. A surgeon connects an artery to a vein, usually in the arm, to create a wider and thicker vein. The large veins provide high blood flow, is less likely to become less infected or to clot, and it lasts longer than other ports or types hemodialysis access.

When asked about advice to someone on a transplant list, Everson said that she would tell them not to give up. They will get a kidney. She also encouraged everyone to research the importance of organ donation and become a donor.

“It saves lives and has given me my life back!” Everson exclaimed.

Everson and her husband, Greg, of 36 years are both Langdon natives and have strong ties to the community: three daughters, six grandchildren, and one dog. They returned to Langdon about a month after her transplant. She said that she has never felt more welcome.

“We were blown away by the support of the whole community.” Everywhere Everson went, people welcomed her home. Her final comment – “and there’s no place like home.”