CLINTON (WATE) – Right now in East Tennessee, 225 people are on the waiting list for a new kidney. One of those people is nurse Bonnie Estes, of Clinton, who has a heart for the most fragile babies who come into the world. Another blessing may be about to come Estes’s way.
The caring nurse who’s worked for 15 years in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital can’t imagine doing anything else for a living.
“I just love working with the babies,” she said. “I always have. When I got out of nursing school, I mean, I feel like God led me in that direction.”
In January, Estes found out she needed some special medical attention. Diabetes and high blood pressure had caused kidney failure. Estes was living with only eight percent kidney function. She was more surprised than anyone.
“At the time, I didn’t think I felt any different,” she explained. “I had some swelling in my legs. I was tired all the time, but felt like since I’ve been working 12 hour shifts all these years, and I’m getting older, I thought, well, I’m supposed to have swelling in my legs.”
Estes had to leave the babies she loves for dialysis at UT Medical Center. Then, however, she found a way to take care of herself and the little ones, and not miss much work. She now does dialysis at home for over eight hours every night, which allows her to be up at 5:30 each morning to get back to the NICU.
“It does wake me up at night because you can feel everything. It fills and drains. It’s on a machine that does it by itself. I’m so thankful for it. I can do it at home, and it doesn’t make me feel as bad.”
Estes is undergoing a type of dialysis known as peritoneal dialysis. During the process, blood vessels in the abdominal lining fill in for the kidneys with the help of a fluid that flows into and out of the peritoneal space. It’s different from hemodialysis, which is a more common blood-filtering procedure.
With peritoneal dialysis, like Estes has, you can give yourself treatments at home, at work or while traveling. Peritoneal dialysis doesn’t work for everyone.
After being on the kidney transplant waiting list for a few months, Estes is very close to finding a match. All that is known right now is that it’s someone she works with.
“When I came back to work, these friends came and were like, ‘I want to be tested, I want to be tested,’ and only one of them turned out to be the right blood type, and she was tested. And hopefully this is all going to work out,” Estes said.
Brent Hannah, with the Center for Transplant Services at UT Medical Center, said it’s a great story that is unfolding, and is hoping Estes’s friend and co-worker is indeed a perfect match.
“We’re close. We can’t say it’s 100 percent yet, but we feel really good about it and hope to be able to schedule transplant surgery in the next 6 to 8 weeks,” Hannah said.
No matter the outcome, Estes is overwhelmed that someone would step up for her with a life saving gift.
“There’s not words or anything I can put to that,” said Estes. “Just stay thankful and try to do the best I can to live my life and honor her for that.”
The woman who may be a match for Estes is also a nurse at Children’s Hospital. If there is a match and surgery is planned, we’ll meet the living donor and follow both women through the process.
For more information on organ donation, and becoming a living donor, contact the Center for Transplant Services at (865) 305-9236.