Twenty Years Ago, A Kidney Transplant Kept This Nursing Professional Moving Forward

In 1998, Marsha McFall’s kidney failure basically came out of the blue. At the time, she considered herself a pretty healthy, middle-aged woman. She attended graduate school, worked full time as a nursing professor at St. John’s College of Nursing. She was also raising three young children.

Her life was busy, even stressful at times, but still – she had no history of kidney issues.

When her physical came back, there was protein in the urine, and she was monitored closely. Eventually she was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy, a common autoimmune disease, which generally only leads to kidney failure in 20 percent of cases. Unfortunately, ten years after that initial diagnosis, Marsha started dialysis.

“Dialysis takes away a lot of your freedom,” Marsha said. “Everything revolves around it, and it keeps you from your family and things you’d like to do. Part of the gift of transplant is the return of time and flexibility in your schedule.”

Her younger sister, Linda Cardella, proved to be a match. She traveled from Chicago and donated one of her kidneys to Marsha. The procedure went smoothly and Marsha and her family experienced what she called “transplant joy!”

But there was also anxiety after she returned home – fear of her body rejecting the kidney, fear of infectious illness, fear of the drug therapy itself and concern for her sister’s recovery.

“What surprised me the most was the mixed emotions,” Marsha said. “I was absolutely grateful to be off dialysis and to have my sister do what she did. But somedays you didn’t feel like the luckiest person in the world because of what you had been through. So I learned to accept, express and work through my negative emotions as well.”

Now, twenty years later, Marsha lives in Concordia Village with her husband, Randall. She volunteers with the Carillon, various Concordia committees and at her church. She loves to read, play water volleyball and is a paper crafter. She has maintained good health since the transplant.

She shares four ways the kidney transplant affected her life perspective:

  • I fear illness more, but I realize there is strength in us all that only emerges after facing such a health crisis.
  • I value faith, family and friends more, realizing how quickly life can separate us from the things and people we love.
  • I value patience and acceptance more, recognizing their importance in how we relate to others and the situations life presents us with.
  • I truly embrace life more fully, and that is the real destination of the transplant journey.

For more information about Memorial’s transplant services, visit the Alan G. Birtch, MD, Center for Transplant Services.