As an educator, Claudia Triana-Smith of Petal has always assisted others, especially those in her English as a Second Language classes. She’s helped those who spoke not one word of English when they started kindergarten advance in their language skills to become class valedictorians when they graduated.
But failing health has led Smith to the point where she is now the one who needs assistance and it’s not going to be something as easy as donating to a cause. Smith needs a kidney.
A family history of health issues has brought her to where she is now. But as time goes by, things are gradually getting worse. It’s either a kidney transplant or dialysis.
Real problems began for Smith in 2014 after several bouts with urinary tract infections. Following a CT scan by a urologist, it was discovered that Smith’s kidneys were almost completely covered by staghorn caculi or branched kidney stones.
“The doctor told me I had to see this with my own eyes,” she said. “He told me he had never seen anyone with kidney stones of this size who was still standing.”
Her kidney stones were the size of golf balls – three in her left kidney and two in her right, which must have been growing for years. Up until this point she had been asymptomatic until a piece of stone fell and blocked a ureter canal. That required a hospital stay during which time a stent was placed.
A second opinion in New Orleans found Smith in the Touro Infirmary for lithotripsy to break up the stones. She ended up going through 10 surgical procedures and two blood transfusions before she left the hospital two weeks later.
The doctors had done all they could. Her kidney function was at 35 to 40 percent and she was listed as a chronic kidney disease patient at renal stage 3.
The doctor felt with the daily medications she was taking and following a strict diet, she should remain in stage 3 for a long time. And she did.
“I was the best patient,” she said. “I drank my water, limited my purine intake, and took my medications.”
She got to the point where she only had urology visits once a year, and nephrologist visits twice a year. At the beginning of 2018 her GFR (glomerular filtration rate) was 30 and her creatinine was 1.98.
As 2018 advanced, Smith said it felt like a plague surrounded her family back home in Colombia, South America, and then here at home. Four members of her family died (her parents, an uncle and another relative) and she was told she would need to be placed on the kidney donor waiting list.
By March 2018, her GFR had dropped to 18 and her creatinine had gone up to 3.33.
Dealing with the stresses of death and illness caused Smith to forget about taking care of herself. Her doctor emphasized getting herself ready to be put on “the list.”
“It was as if I had received a bucket of cold water (being thrown on me),” Smith said.
In September her doctor’s visit showed her creatinine had gone up to 4.06, and her GFR was 12. There was nothing left to do but pursue a place on the donor list.
While things got a little better for a couple of months, Smith’s renal function had dropped from 30 percent to 12 percent in the course of a year. And the paperwork began.
Smith entered the UNOS kidney donor waiting list on April 8, 2019, at an inactive level because she needed to have a nephrectomy due to the remnant kidney stones in her left kidney.
Currently her GFR is at 10 percent, which puts her closer to needing to get something done.
Word of mouth and announcements at her church have not resulted in a volunteer to become a living donor.
“It is the Big Ask after all,” she said.
Her sister who lives in Washington, D.C. called Oschner, but was refused due to her own battle with lupus, that although still mild, might be uncertain for her future.
“My daughter (Jacqueline) is just a child, and she is worried about her mother’s health,” said Smith. “I need to be here and be well to be able to see her graduate from high school and from college, to make sure that she is an independent woman.”
Jacqueline, an 8th-grade student at Petal Middle School, would like to start some type of campaign to bring organ donation to the forefront in the hopes of finding her mother a kidney.
The two like to travel and know as Smith’s condition worsens that won’t be possible. Currently the only noticeable symptoms Smith suffers from is fatigue and she’s become sensitive to some smells.
“Sometimes my mom comes in and takes a nap after school while my dad (Keith) and I cook dinner,” Jacqueline said. “We have to wake her up to eat.”
Smith must follow a very strict diet – no dairy, sodas, nothing canned, no sodium, red meat, foods low in protein, no shellfish, nothing fried and the list goes on. She drinks two liters of water a day.
The doctors tell her she faces a four to seven year wait time on the donor list. With a blood type of A, she’s a much easier match, which also makes her less of a priority.
While she knows finding a volunteer is a longshot, she’s hopeful.
For anyone who might consider becoming a living donor, they can call
Ochsner Multi-Organ Transplant Institute (Tel: 504-848-3925 or 800-643-1635) to volunteer to donate for Claudia Triana-Smith; MRN: 10984617. Potential donors must go through a short telephone phone interview to determine if they can be a donor in general. If approved, they will then do a blood test to determine compatibility. From there further testing would be done to make sure that the donor is healthy enough to donate without being affected. The donor’s medical expenses would be covered under Smith’s insurance.