Michelle's love for dogs started early in life. At the age of eight, she got involved in the 4-H Club in her hometown of Louisville, Ohio, and began training and showing dogs in competitions. Her hobby continued during college, and Michelle would regularly work with her beautiful Labrador dogs in between studies.
Then one day, she started feeling ill. The flu was going around campus, so Michelle thought she had just caught the bug. But when she started feeling worse instead of getting better, she went to the doctor. Seeing how dehydrated Michelle was, the doctor checked her into the hospital and recommended a blood test. The results revealed it was actually her kidneys failing, not the flu.
"It's a condition that starts early, but doesn't show up until it's too late."
Michelle had medullary cystic kidney disease, a condition that starts in the early teens and usually doesn't show any symptoms until years later. It was definite—Michelle would need a new kidney. With no match in her family, she had no choice but to join a transplant waiting list. Michelle's doctor recommended going to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Not knowing much about Ohio State, she went for a visit and spent the whole day talking with the doctors and nurses about the transplant process. That first visit put Michelle more at ease and gave her confidence everything would end up okay. She started dialysis soon after.
"I was ready to get the transplant, so I could go on with my life."
While Michelle waited for a kidney, she went three times a week for dialysis at her local hospital. During this time, she had no choice but to stay in school because she needed the health insurance. With her immune system in constant jeopardy, Michelle had to make some difficult decisions. Her involvement in 4-H was put on hold and she had to stop showing the dogs she loved.
Finally, after a year of dialysis, a call came in the middle of the night—Ohio State had a kidney match. An anxious Michelle went straight to Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center, where the medical staff wasted no time getting her into surgery. The kidney came from a deceased donor and was a perfect match.
Michelle's surgery was successful, and she was out of the hospital within a week. The kidney transplant was so seamless that she hasn't had any problems since.
"I'm grateful that I can now live a full, active life."
Now, 13 years later, Michelle focuses mostly on her beloved dogs. As soon as she was well enough, Michelle picked right back up where she left off, and now she owns four beautiful Labrador retrievers. She manages to squeeze in her annual checkups at Ohio State between participating in dog shows across the country. Although Michelle stays busy, she spends a little part of every day thinking about how grateful she is to have a second chance at life.
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