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Transplant patient Darlene Sanders counts her ‘Blessing’ for new life

Kidney recipient Darlene Sanders (left) and friend and fundraising manager Julie Tumblin. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

KINGSLAND — A phone call on June 17, 2016, changed Darlene Sanders’ life.

After two decades of being a dialysis patient, the Kingsland resident received that call from St. David’s hospital telling her to make her way to the facility because she was receiving a new kidney.

“It was like God had me settle in one place. I could have been anywhere, but I was at home,” she said. “My grandson was visiting from Delaware. I was so excited.”

So she called her dear friend Julie Tumblin, a constant source of support for Sanders since her diagnosis as well as her fundraising manager. Tumblin said Sanders was crying so hard that she thought something was wrong.

But everything was right.

They hit the road to Austin believing Sanders would be immediately whisked into surgery. Instead, Sanders waited six hours as medical staff made sure it was a go. The next morning, she went into the operating room. By mid-afternoon, surgeons had finished the procedure.

Though her kidneys lost their function years ago because of high blood pressure, doctors didn’t remove them. They simply placed the transplanted kidney near them because of the veins and arteries attached to her original organs. Those veins and arteries were still preserved and were able to ensure the transplanted kidney did what it was supposed to do.

Tumblin said some transplant patients’ veins aren’t preserved enough for the transplant, which requires more surgery.

“(Medical personnel) were surprised,” she said. “The bladder is rubber, like a balloon. How amazing are our bodies? Even our bodies know what to do to preserve themselves.”

Nurses told Sanders she would have to go through “potty training” again since her bladder, which hadn’t been used in years, was a muscle that needed to be exercised.

Nurses removed the catheter and told Sanders to let them know when she needed to use the bathroom. Sanders tried to nap, but the urgency was so strong, she awoke and made her way to the bathroom, though she wasn’t completely there in time.

“It’s like a newborn bladder,” she said with a laugh. “I was crying and happy and then embarrassed. I was just praising God on the toilet.”

After that experience, Sanders was told to give the kidney a name. She chose “Blessing.”

Another thanksgiving she experienced was meeting so many healthcare professionals who are believers. Sanders recounted having to wake early after her surgery for walks in the hospital with a nurse. As they walked, they sang praises.

Now that she has her kidney and is home, Sanders is able to eat more of the foods she couldn’t for 20 years, including red beans and rice. One of her new favorites, however, is cantaloupe.

Her diet consists of greens, cabbage and other fresh fruits and vegetables and follows a heart-healthy plan.

Her Smoking for Jesus Ministry family prepared meals for her until she had enough energy to make food for herself.

Sanders received the kidney from a female donor who “was real young,” she said. “(Hospital staff) recommended us not to get in contact with the family. We can write a letter to them through the social worker.”

Though she has the kidney for which she has been praying, her medical expenses have remained. She continues to require medication of various forms. Some as expensive as $500 a month. She also travels to see doctors weekly.

Go to helphopelive.org and search for "Darlene Sanders" to make credit card contributions or call (800) 642-8399 to make a telephone donation. Checks may be sent to: In honor of Darlene Sanders, HelpHOPELive, 2 Radnor Corporate Center, 100 Matsonford Road, Suite 100, Radnor, PA 19087. Make checks payable to HelpHOPELive.

Had Sanders still been a dialysis patient, Aug. 5 would have marked 21 years.

“Since June 17, I have not had to do dialysis,” she said.

The last few months and years wouldn’t have been possible without the intercession team at Smoking for Jesus, of which both Sanders and Tumblin are members.

“If anybody needs prayer, we have an amazing intercession team,” Sanders said. “God promised me 20 years ago, He promised me that day I cried out to Him that He would take care of me.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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There are 1 comments.

Emily Webb from HelpHOPELive —
I am so pleased to hear about Darlene's journey. She has been fighting hard with a smile on her face. A "Blessing" indeed!
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