IU Health provides clinics throughout the state for transplant patients. Here is one patient’s story.
By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, firstname.lastname@example.org
She likes to say, “The third time is a charm.” At 36-years-old Felicia James has spent countless hours in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices.
Born with kidney complications, she was barely a toddler when her native kidney was removed. She received her first kidney transplant in 1989; and a second transplant in 1991. When that kidney began to fail in 2016, James began emergency dialysis. For five years, three times a week, four hours at a time, she spent time at a dialysis center near her Lafayette, Ind. home.
“I never knew what it was like to actually have healthy working kidneys. I think I was oblivious to life any other way,” said James. “Dialysis was a nightmare and I felt like I was spending most of my time working on my care.”
On Aug. 19, 2021, James received a third transplant in the care of IU Health’s Dr. Asif Sharfuddin. She named that kidney, “Charm,” for “third time is a charm.”
Three months after her surgery, James began check ups at a Lafayette outreach clinic for transplant patients. Other clinics are located in Vincennes, Evansville, Merrillville, Mishawaka, and Fort Wayne. An IU Health transplant nephrologist and nurse travel to the sites monthly.
Pre- and post-transplant patients receive the care of a highly skilled physician close to home, relieving the burden of long-distance travel.
For James, that means more time to do the things she loves.
“I live less than 10 minutes from the clinic and it is so much more convenient when I’ve spent so much time in treatments,” said James. The oldest of eight children, James was born and raised in Chicago. At her Lafayette home, she has found healing through flower gardening, cooking and baking.
“Recovery has allowed me to pursue the things I love to do – maybe for the first time in my life,” said James.
One big accomplishment pays tribute to her late grandmother.
“She was from the south and was a prominent figure in my life. I got my love for cooking and gardening from her. She was my biggest cheerleader. I’d spend summers with her and being by her side in the kitchen was my safe place. I have fond memories of sneaking strawberries from the patch when we were in the garden gathering the goods,” said James. “I always remember being amazed at how she didn’t use a cookbook but everything she made came out perfect.”
When her grandma died several years ago, James vowed to learn to cook like her grandma. Those who knew her grandma, remember her for her hospitality and “hot water cornbread.”
“Going through dialysis, and transplant caused a lot of anxiety and depression. I found that gardening and cooking were positive ways to cope,” said James. Her specialty: “I can recreate most any dish but I love baking the old-fashioned things like pound cake, cupcakes and cookies.”