FALL RIVER — Kristen Sheffield and Allyson Thompson share a bond as 30-something single moms and emergency room nurses on the overnight shift at Charlton Memorial Hospital, but the “gift” that will pass from one to the other is something that will connect the women for life.
On Monday morning, in adjoining operating rooms at Rhode Island Hospital, Thompson will donate a kidney to Sheffield, giving her back her health and life.
“You can’t repay someone for that,” Sheffield said, dabbing tears from her eyes with a tissue. “It’s a really special thing she’s doing.”
Sheffield, of Seekonk, has been out of work since January when the flu had dire consequences on her already failing kidneys and she had to start dialysis treatment.
“There is no light duty in the ER,” Sheffield said.
Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m., she spends several hours at a local dialysis center where a catheter that has been surgically implanted in her chest is connected to tubes and her blood is cleaned of the waste products that have built up since her last session.
“They don’t know what caused my kidney failure,” Sheffield said. “They think I was born with smaller kidneys.”
It started six years ago when Sheffield learned of her kidney problems during routine lab work. Her creatine blood levels — a number that measures kidney function — were high and imaging tests showed significant scarring.
Since then, Sheffield has been on the restrictive renal diet that limits many foods such as bananas, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, cola, whole grains, smoked foods, prepared foods and more. She has been trying to cut down on the amount of sodium, potassium and phosphorus that build up in the body when the kidneys aren’t functioning normally.
Until she started dialysis, Sheffield continued to work, sometimes pulling 12-hour shifts in the ER and being a mom to her soon-to-be 9-year-old son, who just happens to share a birthday with Thompson’s youngest son.
“I thought if I stayed home, I would feel even worse,” Sheffield said.
Thompson, of Attleboro, was aware of her co-worker’s battle and that she was on the transplant list and looking for a live donor.
“Half the time, she was the sickest person in the ER,” Thompson said of Sheffield.
Thompson decided to get tested at the Lifespan Transplant Center at Rhode Island Hospital last summer to see if she would be a match for a kidney donation, but was told during preliminary testing that she was too heavy. Overall health, weight and many other factors are taken into consideration for live donors.
After losing 25 pounds, Thompson reached out to the center again.
“They worked me up slowly at first,” she said.
But when two potential donors were ruled out, Thompson’s testing ramped up. In the past month, she has given some 56 tubes of blood and four liters of urine for testing. She also underwent an X-ray, CAT scan and EKG.
She was found to be a perfect match.
When asked if she was sure that she wanted to go through with a surgery that would put her on temporary disability for roughly 12 weeks, Thompson said she was “100 percent sure.
“I’m a single mom, too. I know what she’s gone through,” Thompson said. “I’ve seen people suffer on dialysis. I know what it’s like. I would hope someone would do it for me.”
When asked if she was afraid, Thompson said she didn’t fear the surgery or living with one kidney, and said her health was good.
“We’re ER nurses,” Sheffield said. “We don’t scare easily.”
Thompson waved away any mention of being a hero and admitted that she didn’t like “being the center of attention. I tried to keep it a secret as long as I could. It’s not about me. I’m just glad to be able to do it.”
Sheffield said she is thankful, and hopes her new forever friend has a quick recovery without financial worries. Online fundraisers have been set up to help each of the women.
“I don’t remember what it feels like to not be sick,” Sheffield said. “There was a time when I didn’t know if I was going to see my son graduate high school, and she’s giving me that chance.”
To donate to Thompson, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/allyson039s-kidney-donation?pc=fb_dn_cpgnstaticsmall_r&fbclid=IwAR11vp8cKtgYOJG1-JtAPZ44elnCWY1r2Jc2qwVVLz4kEyU-HUvzaao-tSw
To donate to Sheffield, visit facebook.com/donate/505920610180376/
More information about organ donation is available at lifespan.org/centers-services/transplant-center.
Email Deborah Allard at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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