1. Brinson, Peter

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I KNEW something was wrong when I had trouble walking up the stairs. It wasn't multiple flights of stairs, just a single flight. I was exhausted. At age 16, I was a long-distance swimmer and regularly participated in 500-meter races. To go from that to this was distressing and world-changing. Until that moment, I hadn't realized how vital kidneys are to your well-being.


I was diagnosed with posterior urethral valves (PUV) at the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis when I was 1 year old. Before the diagnosis, my parents took me all over the country in search of what was wrong with me. I have a scar on my left bicep from a biopsy, part of a series of unsuccessful attempts to determine the etiology of the illness.


After establishing a diagnosis, the team at Riley set me up with a nephrologist and a urologist. This team managed my illness until age 16, when my kidneys no longer functioned properly. Just climbing a couple of stairs was exhausting. It was determined that I needed a kidney transplant.


I remember sitting in a hospital lab with my mom, dad, and brother so that their blood could be tested to determine if one of their kidneys would be a match for mine. It turned out that my mom was almost a perfect match. Having cared for me my entire life, my mom was now going to give even more of herself to help me live. It was a priceless gift, one I'll never be able to fully repay.


The transplant was scheduled for June 11, 2004, and it couldn't come too soon. I was becoming progressively weaker and my lab results were more dire as the days passed. As difficult as that time was, I was blessed that I didn't have to wait in the transplant line or start dialysis, like millions of other patients who need a new kidney.


I remember being prepped for the surgery. I had to change into a gown and an I.V. device was placed in my right hand. I was then wheeled down to the pre-op area, where the anesthesiology team took over my care and helped me relax.


This brief interaction was so profound that it's one of the reasons why, as a nursing student, I'm pursuing a role in the ICU and plan to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist. I know what it's like to be in the patient's position, to feel terrified and alone, thankful to have someone who is there with you and helping you feel safe.


Waking up postsurgery was frightening. I was groggy and my muscles were so sore I couldn't move. Thankfully, nurses were there to help reorient me and keep me comfortable. Nurses were also there when I had to get up for the first time. They were there after I met with the dietitian who taught me about my strict new diet. They were there after I met with the pharmacists and physicians who introduced me to my new regimen of drugs.


It was one overwhelming experience after the other. I went through phases of fury, which I sometimes directed inappropriately toward the nurses. Just getting up and moving was painful. I was devastated to learn I couldn't eat pizza. I was angry and stressed about the dozen new pills I had to take. Yet my nurses stayed by my side through all of it. They witnessed my struggles, my triumphs, and provided me with constant guidance and support. This experience opened my eyes to the role of nurses and is the primary reason I decided to pursue a nursing career.


Being a patient, especially one undergoing a life-altering surgery, is a challenging experience. It takes a well-rounded support group; in my case, a group that included immediate family members, the nurses, and the anesthesia team. They all have a role to play in giving patients the tools they need to get through this experience.


As a nursing student, I strive to develop my toolbox so that, when the time comes, I can help someone as I was once helped. It's my mission as a nursing student and future nurse to ensure that all my patients receive the best care possible.