My Journey

By: Madhu Thibaudeau

When I was 13 years old, my mom got very sick and was in the hospital. After many days in the hospital, we found out she had a genetic disease that destroys kidney tissue function over time. The disease is called Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).  Our family took care of her as she underwent many tests, and a kidney transplant in 1984. Since then, my brother and I have watched our mom endure many hardships, including a second transplant (in 1992) that has lasted over 20 years (first one only lasted 8 years). My brother donated the second kidney to her, and it was at that point that I knew I would one day face the same fate she did.

Madhu and Roger Thibaudeau

Madhu and her husband, Roger, before her transplant and his donor surgery

I found out in my 20s that I had PKD as well. I researched about PKD and tried to live my life as best as I could, given the news. I took care of myself, ate a proper diet and exercised, knowing I would eventually need a transplant.

Fast forward to 2014, I had completed my transplant evaluation and was contacting friends and family for a living donor. In an unlikely place, a good friend’s husband wanted to get tested and we ending up matching a week before Christmas. What a gift!!

I had the transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center in February 2015. We both recovered quickly and things seemed to go well, until I got a fever in mid-April. Only 2 ½ months after the transplant, what started out as a fever turned into my worst nightmare.

The new kidney wasn’t working and over 15 doctors were desperately trying to find out why this happened. It wasn’t rejection. After many tests and 2 weeks in the hospital, the only result was that the new kidney had developed microscopic blood clots that reduced blood flow.  No one at UMMC had ever seen this before, thus placing me in a very rare group of undiagnosed patients.

From April to August 2015, I was hospitalized 7 times. In that time, I had to start dialysis, have the donor kidney removed in June and had lots of other health issues that landed me in the ER. It was definitely stressful and depressing. My family was enduring along with me, and the worst was for my two teenage boys. Each time I was in the hospital, it would be for at least a week, and they had a hard time understanding why this was happening.

I will never forget August 5th, 2015. Dialysis equipment was being setup in my house, and my husband came home and told me promising news. He had signed up to be a Paired Donor in the University of Maryland Paired Kidney Exchange Program. Since he wasn’t a match for me, he would donate his kidney to someone, and I would get a kidney from someone that matched me. He told me he got a call about a kidney chain of 12 people and that we may fit into it. We both got additional testing done and waited to hear if this would work out. I tried not to get too invested because I knew many things could break the chain (if someone got sick, the chain could be cancelled) with multiple people involved.

Luck was with me because on August 26th, I got my second kidney transplant only 6 months after the first one. The second transplant involved removing my original kidneys, so it was a complex surgery.

Today I can happily report that I am doing great! Due to the first transplant complications, I am on the world’s most expensive drug, eculizumab, to prevent blood clots in the kidney. I receive an infusion twice a month for now to keep the kidney running smoothly. University of Maryland is conducting research and collecting information about this drug with me, in hopes of gaining knowledge if ever my situation arises with another patient.

Having endured the worst year of my life, I can honestly say I learned a lot about myself. I faced things that I never expected too, at times felt like giving up, and wasn’t sure it would all be OK. By having loving family and friends support me, I was able to make it through and have a deeper appreciation for life.

But I have to say, what impressed me most was the dedication of my doctors [at the University of Maryland Medical Center] who spent many long hours, weeks and months to help me each step of the way. I know I would not have been able to get through this without them. I’m specifically appreciative of Dr. Eugene Schweitzer, Dr. Matthew Weir and Dr. Beje Thomas, not to mention the fantastic nurses, technicians and hospital dialysis staff. They took care of me like I was part of their family. For that and so much more, I will be forever grateful. I would recommend to all who are in need of a transplant to visit University of Maryland.

I’ve learned that this disease doesn’t have to encompass my entire life. This is only a small part of who I am, and I won’t let this dictate the happiness I can find throughout my life. For those reading this, I hope this give you comfort and peace knowing that although this journey maybe long and arduous, it doesn’t have to feel like the end.  It’s just the beginning of great things to come.


To learn more about UMMC’s Transplant Center and the Paired Kidney Exchange Program, visit our website. To make an appointment, call: 410-328-5408.

The ‘Seeker’ Gives Through a Living Kidney Donation

Matthew Taylor writes about “living an authentic life in a world of artifice” in his blog, “The Seeker.” This week, he posted a frank and engaging piece about donating one of his kidneys to his wife, who suffered from polycystic kidney disease.  Here’s an excerpt:

“After some soul searching, I decided to give her one of mine. It was not an easy decision to make since there were many factors to consider, but I am at peace with it now. In fact, I’ve come to appreciate some things about a kidney transplant that I never would have thought of before.”

Taylor, a writer who lives in Rockville, Md., gave the University of Maryland Medical Center, where his donation and his wife’s transplant were performed, permission to direct readers to his post,  “25 Ways to Appreciate a Kidney Transplant.”

The University of Maryland Medical Center is home to the second-largest kidney transplant program in the country. The surgeons involved in Taylor’s donation and his wife’s transplant were Michael Phelan, MD; David Leeser, MD; and Stephen Bartlett, MD.

A Gift of Life and Friendship After a Family’s Loss

The weekly StoryCorps segment on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition is a highlight for the show’s listeners. Today’s StoryCorps interview was very special to staff at UMMC.

Rick Bounds received a lifesaving liver and kidney transplant here in 2007. Today, he’s a healthy triathlete with four competitions and a 100-mile bike ride to his name. And he serves as a member of the Medical Center’s Patient and Family Partnership Council.

Go to the NPR site to hear or read the conversation between Rick Bounds and Dorothy Biernack, whose husband, Marty, was the organ donor who made it possible for Rick to live. Rick and Dorothy get together several times a year to celebrate Marty’s lifesaving final gift.

UMMC Mentorship Plants Seeds of Discovery With Local Student

by Lauren Goldschen

As a rising senior at Atholton High School in Howard County in August of 2010, I was excited to start my Intern/Mentor Program provided through my school. This program encourages students within the Gifted and Talented Program to apply for internships/mentorships with professionals who hold careers students admire. I’ve always wanted to become a doctor, and I envisioned my mentor as a local physician who would teach me how to schedule patients and take vital signs.  I did not anticipate that the reality of my internship would actually entail observing transplant surgeries and becoming a published author in the #1 peer-reviewed surgery journal, Annals of Surgery.

Finding a mentor for the program was certainly a struggle as I applied to numerous physicians throughout the area. My high school teacher, Mrs. Natalie Kelly, and I received numerous rejections from local physicians. I stumbled upon the University of Maryland Medical Center’s (UMMC) website, which conveniently listed physicians’ names with contact information and their ongoing research projects. I selected a variety of doctors and sent emails explaining the intern/mentor program and asking if they would serve as my mentor.

Although I anticipated more negative feedback, I was amazed that multiple doctors at UMMC responded and agreed to participate as my mentor. It was even more incredible that the first positive response came from Dr. Stephen Bartlett,  Peter Angelos Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Chair, Department of Surgery at UMMC, and Surgeon-in-Chief and Vice President of the University of Maryland Medical System, who graciously agreed to serve as my mentor.

On my first day with Dr. Bartlett, I watched him perform a kidney transplant. And on my second day, I met Dr. Bartlett’s colleague,  Dr. Rolf Barth, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and transplant surgeon at UMMC, who would become another one of my mentors.

My internship project was to compare patient satisfaction rates of living kidney donors who donated via the novel single-port donor nephrectomy versus living donors who donated via the standard multiple port technique. UMMC’s single-port donor nephrectomy utilizes a single incision in the belly button to remove a kidney from living donors. UMMC was the only the third hospital in the country to adopt this single incision donation technique as the standard of care for all living kidney donors.

The UMMC transplant team believed that this technique, which is more cosmetically appealing and less invasive, could attract more living kidney donors and help decrease the growing kidney transplant wait list. But before the procedure could be promoted, the surgeons first needed to determine if donors preferred this novel single-incision procedure to the standard multiple port procedure.

I began my internship project by writing a survey for living kidney donors that addressed their pain levels after donation and satisfaction rates with the overall donation process. The surveys were distributed to UMMC donors of both the novel single-port and the standard procedure. Read about the survey data that were published in the Annals of Surgery.

My internship was extremely rewarding and memorable, and I’m continuing my internship with the transplant team now as a college student. I enjoy accompanying the doctors on hospital rounds and observing the transplant surgeons interact with their patients. There have been numerous teachable moments, especially in the operating room in which I get to learn about anatomy from a truly unique perspective. I also value the advice that both Dr. Bartlett and Dr. Barth share with me regarding college decisions and future medical career plans.

Although I always knew I wanted to be a doctor, I had never before considered the research aspect of medicine. However, this internship experience has certainly sparked my research curiosity. Currently, I work in a cell biology lab studying the aging process of kidneys, and this summer I am again working at UMMC with Dr. Bartlett and Dr. Barth to investigate the transplant results of different immunosuppressant drugs.

This fall I will be a sophomore Biology Major/Spanish Minor at the University of Pittsburgh. I plan to attend medical school, and due to the wonderful opportunities provided by Dr. Bartlett, Dr. Barth, and the UMMC team, I know that research will always be a fundamental part of my medical career.

UMMC Kidney Transplant Team Hangs on for Dear Life

Contributed by Michelle Klein
Pre-Transplant Coordinator, UMMC Division of Transplantation

Scared. Panicked. Frightful.

What am I doing?

These were some of the feelings I was having in the final moments before I rappelled 32 stories from the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel on Saturday, June 9, 2012.  I am scared of roller coasters and water slides. I won’t even ride Space Mountain at Disney World, yet here I was for the second year, strapped into a harness, about to dangle from 32 stories high to benefit Rappel for Kidney Health, a fundraising event hosted by the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland.

Yet as the rappel volunteers lowered me off the roof, a sense of calm came over me. Instead of being scared, all I could think about was how much my jump, along with the rest of the rappellers, was giving someone else a shot at a new life.

I thought about how fearful and scared some of my patients are when facing surgery to receive a transplanted organ or how they feel when they find out for the first time that their kidney failed without warning. I thought about how many trials and tribulations my patients go through even before they reach transplant surgery. I thought about how the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, through donations and events like this one, is able help so many patients, especially the ones I work with daily at UMMC.

I remembered how excited I was to tell Kelly Meltzer (Director of the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland) that I am not rapelling alone this year – that I had convinced three more people to join me because they also believe in the mission. My fellow team members from UMMC included Deb Evans, Heather Hurley and Michele Postol. I had such a great experience last year that I volunteered to be part of the Rappel for Kidney Health Committee for this year.

These thoughts overpowered any fear I had about rappelling 32 stories. As I made my way down the side of the Marriott, a funny thing happened, I actually began to enjoy it! It was great to have to a bird’s eye view of the Inner Harbor and the water.  It was an honor to be part of the Rappel for Kidney Health event and I can’t wait for next year’s jump!

Here are some key kidney facts from the National Kidney Foundation:

  • More than 90,000 people are on the waitlist for a kidney transplant.
  • 10 people die each day while waiting for a kidney transplant.
  • 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease, and most don’t know it.
  • Every 5 minutes, someone’s kidney fails.
  • More than 380,000 people depend on dialysis for survival.

As a Pre-Transplant coordinator at the University of Maryland for 6+ years, I am honored to be a part of this institution. We have surgeons who are so technically advanced that they can care for the most complex patients when other centers can’t offer them any options. I have the pleasure of working with the pre- transplant coordinators, assistants, and nurses who live and breathe transplant all day, every day.

I believe that early detection of kidney disease, having a living donor transplant when possible, and getting an early referral to the transplant division can help kidney transplant patients have their best outcomes.

We are still raising money to help fight kidney disease, so feel free to donate to our UMMC Transplant team.

Rappel on!






Living Donor Fundraiser Exceeds $10,000!

In follow-up to a post from Marla Blackwell on living kidney donation, we are grateful to report that the 4th annual ‘Night with Nashville’ concert and fundraiser reached a new milestone by raising more than $10,000 on September 8!

Guests partied the night away to country tunes from recording artists Megan Mullins and James Wesley, and lucky bidders walked away with silent auction memorabilia from stars like Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Sara Evans, Justin Moore, Jewel, and Alabama.

These funds will help support the Living Donor Follow-Up Clinic, which provides medical care for up to two years post-donation to people who have given the gift of life through living organ donation. Donations are still being accepted.

Thanks to Marla and Lee Adams for your rockin’ efforts! Can we get a yeehaw, y’all?

The Ultimate Match Game: Donors and Recipients in Triple Kidney Swap Meet for the First Time

There were plenty of hugs to go around when six patients involved in a triple kidney swap conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center met for the first time on July 8, 2011. Each recipient originally came to the hospital with an intended donor: a spouse, a sibling and a church friend.

However, when the blood and tissue typing revealed their intended donors were not a match, all three pairs entered UMMC’s Paired Kidney Exchange (PKE) Program, which seeks to create swaps among incompatible pairs. All six patients met for the first time today at UMMC to talk about their experiences since the transplants took place on June 15, 2011.

“It was a great experience to help someone I never met,” said Karen Becker, 54, who entered the PKE program after she found out she was not a match for her husband, John, who had been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. By enrolling in the PKE program, Karen was still able to help someone in need — ultimately donating a kidney to Mae Opie, a 73-year-old grandmother from Bel Air who also was living with polycystic kidney disease.

Mae’s original donor was Jesse Epperley, a 28-year-old fellow church member who felt called to donate his kidney after reading about Mae’s need in the church bulletin. When Mae and Jesse didn’t match, he entered the PKE program, and his kidney went to Paul McSorley, a 55-year old from Harford County, who did not match with his fraternal twin, Joy Hindle. Joy ultimately donated her kidney to John Becker, who also suffered from polycystic kidney disease.

All three donors had their kidneys removed through single-incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS) through their belly buttons. The University of Maryland Medical Center was the first hospital in Maryland and only the third hospital in the country to offer this minimally invasive technique for living kidney donors. Donors are often amazed at how easy the surgery can be. “I came out of surgery with nothing but a Band-Aid,” said Hindle. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s amazing; I have no scar.”

See the complete photo gallery here.

A “Transplant Miracle”

Twenty-six-year-old Drew Sollenberger wanted to donate a kidney.

Two-year-old Ethan Hatton needed a new kidney to live.

Their separate stories became one thanks to the University of Maryland Medical Center, whose doctors removed one of Drew’s kidneys and inserted it in Ethan on January 19, 2011.

Watch the videos below to learn the whole story and to see the first meeting between donor and recipient. You will be glad you did.

The (Non-Directed) Donor: “Giving a little child another chance at life seemed like a no brainer.”

The Recipient: “How do you get an adult kidney into a two-year-old?”

The Meeting: “He’s almost part of the family now, because he gave Ethan the one gift he needed — a new kidney.”

Becoming A Non-Directed Kidney Donor

This four-minute video features living kidney donor Drew Sollenberger discussing why he felt it was important for him to become a non-directed donor. A non-directed donor is an individual who expresses a desire to donate one of his or her kidneys, but who does not have a recipient to receive the organ.

Dr. Matthew Cooper, director of kidney transplantation and clinical research in the Division of Transplantation at the University of Maryland Medical Center, also appears in the video to discuss the process of becoming a non-directed donor, including the benefits available to donors as a result of a new, minimally invasive surgical technique now being employed to remove the kidney from the donor.

Drew’s kidney was donated to a young child who was struggling to survive before the kidney became available.

Related Information:

Father Gives Son the Gift (Kidney) of Life

On October 28, 2009, Carlos Chambers received a life-saving kidney transplant that put an end to his need for continuous dialysis treatments and gave him back the strength and energy he had before being diagnosed with kidney failure just a few years ago. What made this life-saving gift even more special to Carlos was that his new kidney was donated by his father, Thomas Dunkins, III.

In this ten-minute video, Carlos and his father discuss the joy they felt after learning that Thomas would be a perfect donor for Carlos. They also talk about why they chose to come to the Medical Center, what it was like for them to go through the transplant process together, including their experience attending the Transplant Education Series offered by the Medical Center, and why they often return to UMMC to help other patients and donors in the transplant program. Watch the video to learn more about their incredible story.