by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Friends and family have been some of the best medicine for Olivia Pelley. She has faced several rejected kidney transplants and is now on dialysis. “Friends and family are good distractions and good to have around,” she said. “They make me happy and cheer me up.” This young woman from the Cochrane-Fountain City area is now hoping to receive what would be the ultimate medicine: a new kidney.
At just 24, Pelley has already undergone two kidney transplants. She was born with spina bifida, which contributed to her own kidneys failing. Unfortunately, both transplants were ultimately rejected. She has been on dialysis for two years as a result of the most recent rejection. However, doctors will soon evaluate her mother, Dora Pelley, to see if she could be a donor. Olivia and her family are also hoping a few other individuals would be willing to have doctors evaluate them.
The years of dialysis have been especially grueling for Olivia. For about three and a half hours, three times a week, she has to sit in a hospital room, connected to a machine that mechanically cleans her blood. She can’t risk infection by getting her catheter wet, so she can’t take a shower or do things like go to a lake and swim. With the amount of time dialysis takes up, she has had to forego outings or cancel them. “It’s hard to schedule things around it,” she said. Olivia said being the youngest person at dialysis and observing older people there who have lost a limb due to diabetes, for instance, takes an emotional toll. “It’s really hard to see sometimes,” she said.
“She has handled it with lots of courage,” Dora said. “If I have to say anything about Olivia, it is that she’s very patient and very courageous, and she’s not a complainer.”
Sadly, this type of health challenge is not new for Olivia. Since childhood, she has withstood numerous medical procedures under anesthesia, on top of going through dialysis at age 10 and 18. As a child, she had to miss quite a bit of school because of these health struggles and work through difficult feelings arising from being around children who were also sick.
Though Olivia has encountered obstacles, she lives her life as fully as possible. She enjoys spending time with friends. Her friends stand by her and are very supportive, she said. They make her laugh and give her advice when she needs it, too. “They’re just the best people to be around … I never really thought I’d find people who would accept me, and it’s nice to find people that are accepting,” she said. She continued, “They don’t see me for having a disability. They just see me because I’m their friend.”
Olivia also enjoys getting lost in a good show, book or song, whether it’s a comedy or Disney music. As a fan of baking and cooking, her specialities are cheesecake, brownies and cookies. She appreciates getting outdoors, as well. Recently, she got in some bonding time with her cousins and sister while exploring trails and waterfalls on a family vacation.
Looking to the future, Olivia wants to get her driver’s license, find a place to live with friends and have a job. Her dream job would be working at a bakery. Dora agrees with Olivia’s goals. “The bottom line is, we want her to be as independent as possible,” she said.
Olivia is feeling hopeful as Dora prepares to be evaluated. “I want to get this going. I want to do this. I’m ready. I’m sick of dialysis. I just want to do stuff again,” Olivia said.
“We’re not despairing, we’re not hopeless, we’re tired. We’re tired of this journey,” Dora said. “It’s been a long journey. It wears … on your emotions, your life. We just want Olivia thriving.”
If Olivia were to receive a transplant, some of the first things she would do are book herself a flight to go to the beach and take a really long shower. “No one ever knows the beauty of a shower until you can’t take one,” she said. “I mean, baths aren’t bad, but they just don’t do the same.”
Those interested in being evaluated may visit http://mhealth.donorscreen.org.