Brooklyn resident and social worker Lisa Baxter was just 32 years old when her doctor told her she was suffering from kidney disease and would need to start dialysis. The news was terrifying.
“I was shocked,” she remembers. “I told my fiancée to run away because I didn’t know what this illness meant, but he stayed and we went through it together.”
Baxter had a family history of kidney disease with her father and six of her siblings suffering from it.
“I knew a little bit about what was ahead of me, but that didn’t make it any less scary,” she says.
Baxter began doing regular dialysis treatments, which limited her to just 32 ounces of fluids a day and interfered with her plans to have a baby.
“Dialysis upset my life,” she remembers. “It changed everything.”
After eight years on dialysis, Baxter was listed for a kidney transplant. She was on the wait list for four years before receiving a kidney from a deceased organ donor. Her organ came from an older woman who suffered a heart attack.
“I’m grateful towards my organ donor because even though I didn’t know her, she made the ultimate sacrifice,” she says. “I’m glad her son carried out her wishes. I know that’s hard to do, but because he did, she gave me a second chance at life.”
The successful kidney transplant meant that Baxter could stop dialysis and live a more normal life. Since receiving her transplant Baxter has devoted much of her time to raising awareness about kidney disease and organ donation and helping others.
“It’s hard to stay positive and I want to help people do that,” she says. “I love to help others.”
Baxter, a social worker, currently serves as the health campaign manager at Dreyfus Health Policy & Research Center. Additionally, she has written a number of books, including one titled Melsy Takes Dialysis to Show & Tell, which educates kids about kidney disease. She also has a YouTube show about kidney health, and she helps those who are on dialysis find work, shelter and jobs while they are on their kidney transplant journey.
“Dialysis is a path you often walk alone and I want to do my part to help make it a little easier on people,” she says. “I know how scary waiting for a transplant can be. I hope my story brings hope to others who are waiting.”
To learn more about the power of organ, eye and tissue donation, please visit LiveOnNY.org.