Braidwood Woman Enjoys 30-year Kidney Transplant Anniversary

On Tuesday, the Braidwood Journal published the article below about local kidney transplant recipient Julie Housman who is celebrating the 30-year anniversary of her transplant! Be sure to check out the story below.


Link to story:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

30 years strong
Local woman living healthy, normal life three decades after kidney transplant

Marney Simon
Staff writer

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It’s said that everyone has a twin somewhere.

For Julie Housman of Braidwood, that “twin” saved her life 30 years ago. But it wasn’t someone who looked just like her. For Julie, her twin was an exact kidney match.

Julie’s family surprised her this month by celebrating the anniversary of her successful kidney transplant. Julie received the new organ at Wyler Children’s Hospital in Chicago on June 15, 1978. The success of the transplant is even more surprising due to the limited scientific advancements of the time.

“I was lucky to even get a kidney, because at the time, they didn’t usually do transplants on children,” Julie said.

Kidney transplants are generally very successful in the first few years. But the transplant is usually not a long-term solution. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, less than 44 percent of the most recent kidney transplant recipients survived more than 10 years on their donor kidney. While the survival rate grows year after year, recipients of kidneys back in 1978 were less than 25 percent likely to make it 10 years.

Not only did Julie buck the survival trend, she successfully exceeded the limits of what her donor kidney was expected to do.

“The only time they thought I was in failure was when I was giving birth,” Julie said. “But it turned out my kidney was reacting exactly how a normal kidney would after hours of labor.”

Julie’s journey started at age 9, when a strep throat infection traveled to her kidneys, gradually covering them with scar tissue and nearly destroying them all together. At age 15, Julie was put on a kidney dialysis machine. While the best bet for a successful kidney donation is usually a live, related donor, none of Julie’s family members were a match.

The next two years were brutal. Julie’s prescription pill regimen included a four-times a day dose of phosphorus that made her sick. The two-to-three times weekly dialysis treatments sucked out her water weight, and at age 17 she weighed just 75 pounds. Julie also had to vomit at least twice a day, a result of intense headaches and high blood pressure.

But, determined to get a new kidney, Julie kept herself in the best shape possible, listened to her body, got a lot of rest, and swallowed more than 60 pills per day.

Two years later, on June 14, 1978, she received a call that a kidney was available. The donor was deceased, but was a “perfect match.” Two and a half weeks after that, the 17-year-old and her new kidney left the hospital.

Knowing that the chances for rejection would always be there, Julie committed herself to staying in shape and vigorously following the advice of her doctors.

In 1980, Julie was chosen as one of 10 Illinois residents to participate in the International Transplant Olympics. At the event, she participated in badminton, and took home the gold in high jump.

Julie is well aware of how lucky she is. Many, if not all, of the young friends she made at the hospital did not survive their illnesses far into adulthood.

Julie is now part of a small group of transplant recipients worldwide who have beat the survival odds. While no exact statistics are kept, a few dozen people are known to have survived as long as 44 years on a single transplant.

Julie continues to take steroids and immunosuppressants daily to fight off the possibility of rejection, and sees her doctor once a year.

Julie said she owes all the credit to her siblings and her parents, Juan and Noma Fehr. Julie has also gotten by with the love and support of her husband Dennis and son Brandon. According to Julie, she wouldn’t have made the 30-year milestone without the love and support of her family. The surprise party marking her 30th anniversary was held at the same time as a birthday party for her mother, the whole family gathered together in the garage eating ice cream cake.

“It’s because of all of them,” Julie noted, nodding to her siblings, parents, husband and son.


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