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‘Big Miracle': Teen Gets life-saving Kidney Transplant after 10-year Wait

Charlene Barbot vividly recalls the moment when she got the life-changing call from Cedar Sinai Medical Center. It was the call she and her family had been praying for: the hospital found a kidney that would match Charlene’s daughter, MaryAshley.

“Within a few minutes of getting the call, our faculty jumped in,” describes Charlene, who works at a school in Charleston, SC. “One of the teachers got on the computer and got us a flight booked [to LA.] Our principal went out and stopped the traffic so we can get out.”

There’s a reason the community jumped to action as soon as the Barbots got the news that a kidney is available for MaryAshely: It took 10 years to find a kidney that would be suitable for the 19-year-old.

Born with a kidney defect as well as developmental delays and speech/hearing impairments, MaryAshley had her first kidney transplant surgery before her second birthday. Several years later, her body rejected the donated organ, so the family had to resume the grueling journey of looking for a donor for Ashely.

“We knew at that point the possibility of another transplant was slim to none,” Charlene says. “Close to 400 people tried to be living donors for her. We went down that road for 10 years. Hundreds of people tried to be donors for years including family, but no one was a match.”

Because MaryAshley has unusually high levels of antibodies in her blood, her system would fight and reject any new organ into her body.

“There are what I call ‘good’ antibodies and ‘not-so-good’ antibodies,” explains Dr. Dechu Puliyanda, a pediatric nephrologist who has been taking care of MaryAshley. “Good antibodies like COVID fight off infections. But like in MaryAshley’s case, when you have antibodies against another person, it means if that person gives you the kidney, those antibodies will attack the kidney immediately.”

When MaryAshley turned to the Cedar Sinai’s transplant program for help a decade ago, the extend of her antibodies was 99.9%, which is why she could not get any donors.

Fast-forward to now, it’s been seven months since MaryAshley had a kidney transplant at Cedars Sinai. Her medical team believes all the signs are pointing the right direction.

“I got a call from the biopsy, saying there was no rejection. My jaw fell off,” Dr. Puliyanda recalls. “It was a big miracle.”

With a new lease on life, MaryAshley doesn’t want to miss a beat in everything she does, according to her mom.

“She has far more energy than we do. She doesn’t want to waste a second of it,” Charlene says. “She’s always asking me, ‘What are we going to do tomorrow? What are we doing the next day?’ She’s ready to take on the world every day.”

In her quest to finding joy in everything in life, MaryAshley has been keeping busy. After attending her first prom, where she was a nominated as a prom queen runner-up, the teen also had her first job-shadowing experience by observing nurses at her school.  

Next on MaryAshley’s list: riding horses and learning to cheerlead.

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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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