Transplant survivor has new cause

 Messenger photo by Cindy Kazalia
 Grove City resident Brenda Gerencser sits with her husband Chris. She received a kidney transplant and now aims to help others in a similar situation.

Grove City resident Brenda Gerencser left behind the tropical breezes of Hawaii and the glamour of Beverly Hills to come to this area.

"It’s finally a place that I can call home," she stated. "I remember as a child visiting my aunt who lived here. We’d go to church and the pizza place. I remember walking to K-mart."

Life was good until a routine physical exam uncovered a life threatening illness – kidney disease. Her doctor called with the news – anemia, high blood pressure and kidney failure. He urged the young patient to go to the emergency room immediately.

The gravity underlying the physician’s words didn’t initially sink in.  

"I called a girlfriend to go with me and we stopped for Chinese food on the way," Gerencser laughingly recalled.  

Once in the emergency room, she was rushed ahead of other patients to undergo a battery of tests. Transfusions combated the anemia. Medication assisted with the blood pressure but a kidney specialist used words like, "end stage renal failure."

"The best option for you," the physician stated, "is to get a kidney transplant."  

Gerencser, still in shock, relied on her father and brother for support. Her relatives had immediately flown to her side upon hearing the news.

"My dad and brother were tested as possible donors but they were not a match," she recalled.

Thus began the grueling routine of dialysis, the only procedure keeping Gerencser alive and her body free of deadly toxins. Then she waited, with thousands of others, for news of an available kidney.  

She remembered, "I went to that first dialysis visit alone because I was embarrassed. But I had wonderful doctors, nurses, and technicians."

Still, Gerencser wondered what did it all mean?

"I thought I had my life under control," she said. "A good job. Friends. What would my future hold now that this happened?"

Debbie Myers, a registered nurse at Fresenius Medical Center, mentioned an open position that allowed Gerencser to work at the dialysis center where she received both treatment and support. She beamed, recalling Myers role in her life.  

"She is my angel!"

Another angel provided a kidney to Gerencser on January 15, 2006, two years to the day of her life threatening diagnosis. She spoke reverently of the deceased, unknown donor – the one who, in death, gave Gerencser new life.  

Recovery – physical, emotional, spiritual – is rarely immediate following transplant.

Gerencser’s body proved incompatible with some anti-rejection medication necessary to sustain her new kidney. A series of hospitalizations and complications resulted – including swelling of the joints and clinical depression.  

"After six months my body stabilized, but my depression escalated," explained

Gerencser. "People don’t like to talk about it because it’s supposed to be such a happy time."  

She credits Chris, her husband, with prompting her to seek out professional help.  

Today, Gerencser is happy, healthy, and whole. She is an educator at Frensenius Medical Center, assisting patients who walk the same road as herself, and pursuing a health care administration degree at Columbus State.

"Just because a person is sick doesn’t mean that they’re useless," she stated. "Everyone has something to offer."

Perhaps, most importantly, life’s detours taught Gerencser about herself.  

"I believe that it’s made me stronger," she reflected. "I’ve found my inner strength. Things can change in an instant – we can’t take anything for granted. I believe in hope."

If you or someone you love needs support dealing with kidney disease, contact Gerencser at 294-5757. She runs a free class which is open to the public every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. It is held at Frensenius Medical Center, 1299 Olentangy River Road in Columbus.

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