LL woman in need of kidney transplant; sister not able to donate

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The hustle and bustle of modern life can distract people from appreciating the pleasures of just being alive.

But Los Lunas native Jennica Kettle is reminded daily how precious the simple things in life can be.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Jayne Hawkins, left, mother Janet Lane, center, daughter Jennica Kettle on FaceTime, and stepfather, James Lane, right, pray a kidney donor will be found for Jennica, who, at 24 years old, is on dialysis three days a week.

The 24-year-old’s life revolves around three-hour long dialysis treatments three days a week, yet she maintains a positive attitude ― a character trait she says she learned from her mother.

Even with all the hospital stays and treatments she must undergo to stay alive, she still continues to work a 40-hour week job. She loves her job and it helps keep her spirits up, she said.

Jennica was born with a condition known as bilateral hydronephrosis, a birth defect of the tubing or ureters from her kidneys to her bladder, which has led to the deterioration of her kidneys.

The family first learned about the condition when Jennica had a kidney infection at 6 weeks old, said her mother, Janet Lane.

“They told us then that she would probably need to have surgery, that she would continue to have infections,” said Janet. “So they put her on a maintenance dose of antibiotics.”

Bilateral hydronephrosis is rated on a 1 to 5 scale, and sometime as a child grows the condition is corrected naturally.

One year later, Jennica was to have surgery, but the pediatrician told the family since Jennica had not had any more infections, she was probably alright, Janet explained.

But when Jennica was 7, she had another kidney infection, and doctors said her kidneys had been damaged and were only functioning at about 20 percent.

The family also learned that surgery to correct the condition would not work because of the way her ureters are formed, plus Jennica also has Hinman’s bladder, which doesn’t function normally.

Jennica has been placed on a special, low protein diet that eliminates sodium, potassium and phosphorus and is easier on the kidneys.

“Basically, anything that doesn’t taste good,” said her stepfather, James Lane.

Desperately in need of a kidney transplant, everyone in the family except Jennica’s younger sister, Jayne Hawkins, were tested to see if they could provide a kidney. Unfortunately, none were a match.

There was hope that Jayne might be a donor candidate, but she was in the Philippines on a spiritual mission with her church. When she found out her blood type was compatible with that of her sister, Jayne started the process to return to the states.

The whole family was hopeful Jayne’s kidney would work for Jennica.

Jayne was worried because a return passport could take up to three weeks, she said. To her relief, the approval and her passport arrived within a few days.

The sisters hadn’t seen each other in 10 months, so there was a lot of excitement and laughter between them even as they underwent rounds of testing for the transplant.

Kidney transplants are no longer an experimental surgery, they happen so often now they are actually the No. 1 organ transplant, Jayne said.

After all the tests and kidney imaging, the doctor told Jayne that he could not recommend her as a good a kidney donor for her sister because one of her kidneys was too small.

“It’s one of those things, I don’t know ― it’s really hard to describe, but it’s that sense of hopelessness,” Jayne said. “It was like ripped out from under me.”

Jennica is on a list for a donor kidney, but it can take years to get one. She will have to stay on dialysis until a kidney is found.

“There is a cool thing about the transplant system,” said Jayne. “Anyone who wants to donate, even if they’re not a match for her, can still donate in an organ swap.

“The biggest chain was 27 people who were able to get kidneys just because they were able to swap people,” Jayne said. “So, you’re helping someone else out even if you’re not helping out Jennica directly.”

To help Jennica Hawkins, visit her blog at www.established1994.blogspot.com, call the Lane family at 688-2903, or call Jennica’s transplant coordinator, Sarah Scutts, at 1-800-824-2073, ext. 53202.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.