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Kidney Tranplant, 'A blessing'!

MaryEttenat_203x270Mary Ettenat has overcome many odds when it comes to her kidneys. Shortly after giving birth to her only child, Ettenat fell ill and underwent her first ureteral reimplantation at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) in 1993; but her health began to decline a few years later.

When Ettenat had a second ureteral re-implantation in 1996 in Guadeloupe, she did not think she would have to worry about kidney failure in the future, particularly as her doctors had told her she could live a normal, healthy life for a very long time.

And she did. For some 14 years after her second surgery, Ettenat lived a normal, healthy life. She would have regular health checkups each year and her kidney posed no threat to her health.

But then in 2010, her kidney troubles began again for the third time. Her medical specialist at the time, Dr. Theo Jolles began to mentally prepare Ettenat for the inevitable – dialysis. Still looking for a better option for his patient, Jolles referred her for specialised treatment at St. Elisabeth Hospital in Curaçao where she underwent another surgery; this time, a Double J catheter was inserted, connecting her kidney to her bladder.

A few weeks after she returned home to St. Maarten, Ettenat developed an infection. Again, she was at the hospital in Curaçao, this time to have the catheter removed. What should have worked had not. "I woke up from a three day coma (after the catheter removal) in the middle of the night, in a pool of my blood. I ended up on dialysis right away, much faster than we had anticipated," Ettenat said.

It was a difficult process for the mother of one. Her speech was slurred and she had to relearn simple body functions like walking. During this time, in a strange country without her family, she was experiencing dialysis treatment for her first time.

"I was not prepared for this [dialysis]. Your life changes completely." "This is death row," Ettenat said to her nurses and doctor at SMMC's Dialysis Department. "You come every other day for four hours, get hooked up to the machine again and again waiting for the day you die."

When Ettenat began dialysis in 2010, there was no transplant coordination in St. Maarten. Persons could only get a kidney transplant if they had a donor and was able to cover the cost of travel, surgery and other expenses on their own. "When the kidney transplant coordination began, I was more than excited, I was ecstatic. They really brought us hope."

In September 2012, Ettenat became the fourth SMMC patient to receive a transplant as a result of the coordination being handled by the hospital's Dialysis Department, between the patient insurance and the admitting hospital in the Netherlands, Erasmus MC.

Ettenat's friend was willing to give her kidney, but as she was not compatible to receive her friend's kidney, a kidney paired donation was coordinated. Ettenat's friend gave a kidney to another patient in order for Ettenat to receive a kidney from that patient's donor.

Twelve hours after the long anticipated surgery, Ettenat lost the kidney. During that time, another friend living in the Netherlands visited her and decided to give her a kidney. "I did not want it," Ettenat said. "I was fearful that I would lose it again. I did not want to put somebody else through that disappointment. But she insisted, and I finally accepted."

Ettenat's second kidney transplant in 2013 was a success. "I was not nervous, I trusted God. He has a way of working things out." The 46-year-old Ettenat now works a fulltime job and is enjoying a normal and healthy life again. She does not have diabetes, hypertension or any other chronic illness that can be destructive to the health of her kidney. She monitors what she eats in order to keep her overall health in good condition.

While some may consider her a statistic – that one individual in every 750 persons who is born with only one kidney – Ettenat calls her kidney transplant a blessing, now that her troubles seem to be over. Happy to be in good health after getting a better quality of life with her kidney transplant, she enjoys life.

Ettenat thanks her kidney donors, SMMC's Dialysis Department and its then kidney transplant team: Nurse Georgina Mingau, Nurse Dionne Trustfull, Nephrologist Dr. Marjolijn van Buren, Dr. Jolles and Social Worker Nathaly Pieters. "The Dialysis Department is doing a fantastic job. The nurses are angels. They have given a lot of us second chances we thought were lost and we would never find again. They did not sleep on it [coordinating the transplant].

Within a few months, everything was arranged." The new team comprises Nurse Mingau, Social Worker Rachel Hofdom and Internist Dr. Samay Nadery. Ettenat also expresses appreciation to the medical staff in the Netherlands: H.J.A.N. Kimenai and Dr. Jacqueline van de Wetering for the care given to her.

When asked for her message about kidney transplantation, Ettenat says: "I would love for people to have the option to get a kidney transplant before starting dialysis. The list of patients is getting longer and it is an urgent need. There are people who would like to help someone who needs a kidney, but they are afraid of the unknown. People need to know that giving someone a kidney does not mean the end of the road for you; you are giving that individual a second chance at life. I'm happy that the hospital is taking a step in giving patients this opportunity.

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