Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Sept. 25 newspaper on Page A6.
JACKSON — Bridgette Chandler, of Jackson, thought she had life figured out in her early adulthood.
“What do you say when a stranger offers you a second chance at life? All I can think of is eternally grateful.”
When Chandler was a 25-year-old, she was happily married with two young children and working a fulfilling career. But life, as Chandler discovered, has a way of throwing “curveballs” when least expected.
In September 2008, Chandler made a trip to the emergency room with symptoms she thought were flu-related. However, doctors discovered that her kidneys were failing.
Chandler recalled that she’d need dialysis, a treatment that mimics the work of her failed kidneys, which can take up to four hours, three times a week.
Refusing to miss out on her children’s lives, she found a home dialysis option with the help of her care team at Fresenius Kidney Care of Ashland in Kentucky.
She remained on dialysis until she received a transplant in September 2013. So, five years later and, almost as unexpectedly as the initial diagnosis, a simple post on Facebook connected Chandler to a woman who wanted to help a perfect stranger by donating her kidney.
Turns out, Chandler and the stranger were a match.
With a new kidney and lease on life, Chandler woke up from surgery looking for a way to give back to others in her situation. While still in the hospital, she asked her doctor how soon she could start school to become a registered nurse (RN).
Chandler then graduated with her RN in December 2016 and began working for Fresenius Kidney Care in Jackson, and Ashland, Kentucky with dialysis patients in January 2019.
Nearly six years later after receiving her transplant, Chandler is now working with home dialysis patients back at the same clinic that treated her, alongside her former nurses.
Earlier this month, Chandler celebrated her transplant, as well as Nephrology Nurses Week (September 8-14).
That week, according to the American Nephrology Nurses Association, is set aside to honor the dedicated nephrology nurses who care for patients with kidney disease.
“I love what I do,” stated Chandler. “It’s incredibly rewarding helping my patients find a flexible treatment option at home that works for them — just like home dialysis did for me.”
Chandler said, “When patients hear the diagnosis ‘End-Stage Renal Disease’ it’s easy to focus on the word END. I hope they see me and are reminded that they are not alone and that there is hope.”
Chandler told The Courier that she does still speak to her donor, but not as often as she would like.
“We do still text and send cards occasionally,” stated Chandler. “Honestly, there are no words to describe the feeling.”
Chandler told The Courier that if that donor wouldn’t have done what she did, she would have remained on dialysis for the rest of her life.