Giving a kidney

Nelda Dukes and Sonya Thomas, right

Sonya Thomas is the big sister. She’s supposed to take care of her younger sister, Nelda Dukes. At least, that’s how Sonya feels.

But things are a little upside down right now. It’s Nelda who’s taking care of Sonya – by giving her a kidney.

Sonya was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2006. A second diagnosis followed in 2011 – kidney failure. Following a series of testing in 2016, Sonya was placed on the cadaver list, a transplant list comprised of organ donors.

Then Nelda spoke up last summer, telling her sister she wanted to be tested to be a donor, to give Sonya one of her kidneys. Of course, it’s not that easy – just to say you want to donate a kidney. There’s testing and more testing and more testing. Nelda passed with flying colors. She’s a perfect match.

Late last year, the sisters started scheduling and other preliminary work with Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans. Now they have a date for the transplant – April 17.

Sonya will go in on April 16 – Easter Sunday. Nelda comes in Monday.

Sonya’s surgery is expected to last about four hours, Nelda’s about three hours. Sonya will be in the hospital about a week, Nelda for up to 48 hours.

Once Nelda is discharged from the hospital, she’ll stay in New Orleans for a few days due to a follow-up exam before she is discharged from care. She will also need a caregiver for that time, since she will be recovering from surgery.

Nelda’s recovery is expected to take eight weeks. Sonya’s recovery is expected to take three to six months.

As mentioned earlier in this article, Sonya had been put on a cadaver list. Having Nelda’s kidney will mean her recovery time should be much shorter than with a cadaver kidney. Nelda’s kidney will be living and functional when the transplant takes place. Getting a cadaver kidney usually means a longer recovery time because the kidney has to be revived, and chances of rejection are greater.

Facing this major surgery in a matter of days, Sonya and Nelda both said they’re “nervous, excited, scared, but ready to get it done.”

“I’m ready to see my sister not connected to dialysis machines and not have her life revolve around her condition,” Nelda said.

Once Sonya is discharged from the hospital, Ochsner will send her to an apartment nearby for two to three weeks. She will have a caretaker.

In addition to travel, Nelda and Sonya will both have to bear the expense of staying in New Orleans.

Sonya’s insurance will cover most of the cost of the transplant procedure, but there have been numerous trips to New Orleans which means gas and motels. Add to that the additional cost of staying in New Orleans after the surgery, Sonya and Nelda are facing some rather large out-of-pocket expenses.

A GoFundMe account has been set up. There is also an account at Gulf Winds for deposit. If you make a donation at Gulf Winds, please include Sonya’s name and this number: 4171.

If you would like to help them, Sonya and Nelda would appreciate it tremendously.

The sisters live next door to each other in Martinville.