ASHLAND, Ky. (WOWK) – Bridgette Chandler of Jackson, Ohio is a healthy kidney transplant survivor thanks to a stranger from Mount Sterling, Kentucky.
In September 2008, Bridgette enrolled in nursing school at Ohio University. In her second week of classes, she got sick having flu-like symptoms.
“And I remember the doctor coming in and I’m 25 and he said ‘your kidneys are failing, we need to send you someplace else,'” said Bridgette.
She was immediately rushed into surgery and spent nine days in the hospital. She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease due to urinary reflux which caused her to lose the function of her kidneys.
Dialysis was her only solution to live.
“I fought dialysis, I did not want to start because to me that was admitting that I was sick and I was admitting this was the end,” said Bridgette.
At the time, Bridgette was married with two young children and working. This diagnosis left her feeling scared and lost until she found Mitsue Ferguson, a home therapies R-N at Fresenius Kidney Care Center in Ashland.
“Someone with two children, and she had been working and she couldn’t work anymore; she just had to have some support and had to know somebody was in her corner,” said Mitsue.
Over 100,000 Americans are placed on the kidney donor registry a year and on average, each person will watch three and a half years.
Bridgette was on home dialysis from 2009-2013 and had been waiting for a new kidney for five years. She was called in three different times as a secondary and primary kidney recipient, but all three times failed for various reasons.
“I absolutely gave up. I came home and I looked at my husband and I told him ‘I’m going to die and my kids aren’t going to remember me.’ That was my biggest fear,” said Bridgette.
But fate would step in and connect Bridgette to her perfect match.
Megan Tibbs of Mount Sterling, Kentucky was on the hunt, for personal reasons, to donate one of her kidneys. She had failed to find a recipient, but her dog, Doodle connected her to Bridgette after he ran away.
“She gets on Facebook and starts adding all these random people trying to find her dog and sees this post that my brother, who was 16 at the time had made that said ‘I wear green for my sister.’ Green was her favorite color, so she added my little brother,” said Bridgette.
Megan contacted Bridgette in February 2013 and that following July surprised Bridgette on her birthday with life-saving news – that on September 24th she would give her her kidney.
On the day of the surgery, Bridgette told Megan that she didn’t have to do this. Megan replied, “it’s always been yours, I’ve just been holding it for you.”
Bridgette woke up from surgery feeling like a new person, wanting to pick up a life put on hold for half a decade. She went back to complete nursing school and now works alongside Mitsue administering home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.
“She does know how these people feel, she has been there, she has experienced it, so she can really empathize, I mean she really gets it, and knowing something I said helped her and now she’s using it to help someone else… that’s nice,” said Mitsue.
“I just want the best outcome for them, I always want them to know that I understand,” said Bridgette.
Bridgette and Megan still keep in contact and visit each other from time to time and a year post-surgery, 2014, Megan found her dog, Doodle the Wonder Poodle.