Hannah Garrard’s life took a frightening turn March 21 when her kidney failed. She had to spend six days on life support and another 11 days in the hospital. She appeared to be out of the woods for a year before having to discuss getting a transplant. However, she had to battle her failing kidneys again on Sept. 24. This time, Garrard had to face Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome and Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome as well. She was discharged from the hospital Oct. 5. Unfortunately, just two days later, she suffered from hypertensive crisis and six seizures and had to be transferred from Stormont Vail to the University of Kansas Medical Center. There, after her symptoms had drastically worsened, she was also diagnosed with Atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.
Garrard is one of two documented cases of aHUS worldwide. She is dealing with an incredibly rare disease.
This disease means that kidney failure was inevitable, and is vastly different than Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). HUS is caused by E.coli-producing Shiga toxins and can easily be dealt with and cured through treatment that cleans the affected organs, however, aHUS is genetic and can become chronic in cases like Garrard’s.
This snowballing of illnesses also means that she is a dialysis patient with stage-5 kidney failure now. She is on 14 different medications to control her blood pressure, treat her anemia and prevent seizures. Her days are filled with doctor’s appointments and dialysis treatments, all while working toward her bachelor degree in communications at Washburn.
Her family is diligently supporting Hannah any way they can.
“My family is very team-oriented, all for one and one for all. We make sure she has what she needs, whether it’s appointments, the right foods, or just a checking in on her,” said Toni Garrard, Hannah Garrard’s mother. “We need the message shared.”
Toni Garrard stressed how she wanted her daughter to have a normal life, one in which she can spend time with her friends, go to school and work without apprehension.
She needs support now more than ever. A kidney donation would help her immensely. It would return her to the normal mode of things. However, kidneys are the hardest to obtain, as the waiting list exceeds well over two years. United Network for Organ Sharing has reported that, as of Nov. 12, 2018, in Kansas alone there are 435 people waiting on a kidney. It is the most needed organ donation in the state.
A living donation is the best option right now because Hannah Garrard would need infusions before and after transplantation to keep her aHUS from attacking the new kidney. Without a living donor, Garrard’s expected wait time for a deceased donor is 2.5-3 years. A person can still live with one kidney, however it is a long and painful wait. Living donors can choose to donate one of their healthy kidneys if they are a match for the receiver.
The process of organ donation is more difficult than one might think. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, there are three main components consisting of blood type, HLA factors and antibodies.
Firstly, the donor’s blood type must match the kidney recipient. In Garrard’s case, she is needing someone with the blood type A or O.
The second factor is Human Leukocyte Antigen which are diverse proteins located on the surface of cells throughout the body. Since people inherit two sets, one from each parent, it is fairly difficult to find a donor with similar HLA. If there are too many differences in HLA there is a high chance of rejection of the new kidney.
If a donor and recipient match on blood type and HLA, then the last factor of antibodies is assessed. Some people’s immune systems have antibodies that react to HLA in a harmful way. Doctors must perform a test and look for a negative crossmatch.
If a donor has all three components to the kidney recipient, then they are able to safely donate their kidney. However, this process can be lengthy and most people do not reach the third aspect of the antibodies test.
Even if one cannot donate their kidney due to blood type, there are still opportunities to do a paired donation. This is usually applicable when a potential donor does not match the receiver’s needs. The incompatible pair exchanges kidneys with another donor-receiver pair.
She needs a kidney desperately. There is a Facebook page dedicated to the cause that interested people can view to get detailed information on the donation process and Garrard’s multiple ailments. There are links and phone numbers as well.
Garrard is weathering her afflictions bravely.
“I like to think that I have a pretty positive attitude most of the time. Obviously, there are days when my situation weighs heavy on my mind and heart, and some days, I question why this had to happen to me,” Garrard said. “At this point, it’s mostly about acceptance and about trying my best to continue living as normally as I can.”
Professor Tracy Routsong of the communication department discusses her feelings on the situation.
“For me, Hannah is a part of our Washburn family and she needs her Washburn family to rally around her. There might be some Ichabod, past or present, who can change her life. I don’t qualify to be a living donor, so I am trying to make a difference by sharing her message,” Routsong said. “There is someone out there.”
Gerrard continues to fight through her condition every day and is hoping for a donor that will change her life. The goal for Garrard is a life without dialysis.
Here is additional information that can help:
1. Hannah’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/helpinghannahgarrard/
2. Link to the donor evaluation process: https://www.kansashealthsystem.com/transplant/kidney/living-donor/evaluation-process?fbclid=IwAR12pTPtZsLlCPbonRB_7JDrGdS95XuKW1sFw4fW_w-2H7uQuZJk6IXsjHk&fbclid=IwAR12pTPtZsLlCPbonRB_7JDrGdS95XuKW1sFw4fW_w-2H7uQuZJk6IXsjHk
3. What it means to be a living donor: https://www.kansashealthsystem.com/transplant/kidney/living-donor?fbclid=IwAR0ILFAi4JE7y8RUwceMO8CJj-QLqZE0tYq9ZOpwQhIJTW_5dKUeqCoZ2E0
4. The phone number for the KU Med Living Donor Team: 913-588-0266
5. Hannah Garrard’s mother, Toni Punzo Garrard’s number: 785-969-4195