Duluthian recovering after long-awaited kidney transplantFor the second time in her life, Venis Gibby is the recipient of a gift she hoped she would never need.
For the second time in her life, Venis Gibby is the recipient of a gift she hoped she would never need.
After years of doctor’s appointments, emergency room visits and continuous dialysis, Gibby, 39, recently received a second kidney transplant.
“I’ll have to deal with the meds forever and I’ll have to deal with the blood work forever,” she said. “But on the other side of it, I’m better. Everyone who sees me says I look a lot healthier.”
Gibby, a 1992 graduate of Denfeld High School, was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP), a rare disease that attacks the body’s blood vessels, in 1999, and received a kidney transplant the following year.
Despite the kidney being a perfect match, it was from a deceased donor and her body rejected it after nine years, leaving her on dialysis since 2009. She was put on the national kidney waitlist, and for years she pleaded with family and friends to get tested for a match, but she struggled to find a
kidney that would be compatible.
Finally, Gibby received the call on Memorial Day. After being told to be on standby, she received another call at 11 p.m. telling her it was a go. She headed to the Twin Cities that night and had the 10-hour surgery the next morning.
“I’m feeling good, but really sore,” she said. “It’s hard to adjust after basically five years of being on dialysis.”
After years of strictly avoiding foods high in phosphorus and limiting her water intake, Gibby says she is now free to eat anything she wants and must consume at least two liters of water everyday.
However, even with proper nutrition and medication, there is no guarantee that her body won’t reject the kidney again. It is again from a deceased donor, but this time it is not a perfect match, meaning some of her antibodies will try to fight it.
While she continues the slow recovery process, Gibby will continue receiving medical attention. She has surgeries scheduled for later this month to remove staples that were put in her stomach, and a stint that was put in her bladder during the surgery. And she will continue to need appointments to monitor her blood and ensure that the kidney is not being rejected.
“I’m definitely worried because of the fact that it is not a perfect match,” she said. “It’s a lot riskier.”
Without going through the tiring process of dialysis several times a week, Gibby said she hopes to be able to spend more time with her family and get back to working.
She has three children: 21-year-old Brett, 19-year-old Roni and
15-year-old Triston. Roni is also the mother of Venis’ first grandchild, 14-month-old Aubrey, and she has another on the way.
Through her medical struggle, Gibby also had to deal with the loss of her 17-year-old son Zackery last July, and her mother two years prior.
Besides her family, Gibby said she has been supported by numerous classmates from high school and has found support by regularly attending service at Norton Park United Methodist Church.
Gibby has been out of work for nearly a year and has struggled to find work since. After months of searching, she had found a temporary position and worked just one day before getting her transplant.
She said she’ll begin looking for a job that doesn’t have a lot of physical requirements as soon as she gets clearance from her doctor. While medical bills have been covered by Medical Assistance, it’s been expensive to regularly travel to the Twin Cities and make it to appointments, she said.
In an interview with the Budgeteer last December, Gibby was feeling unsure about if she would ever get a kidney that was a good match.
“I’ve had a lot of things go on in my life,” she said at the time. “I’m just waiting for this all to get better.”
Now that she’s on that path, Gibby said she plans to keep raising awareness for kidney donations. She’s twice been a recipient, and said she wants to make sure others can be as well.
“No one really understands how much the kidney does for your body,” she said. “Don’t ever take it for granted.”