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Life-Saving Double Transplant Helps Abington Hospital Employee Get Back on Track

Judi McMichael

Judi McMichael has always been a healthy and active person—that is until a debilitating diagnosis took her off course. Now Judi and her health are back on track thanks to a life-saving double transplant.

Judi’s journey started in 1999 with a medical mystery. She began experiencing fevers but doctors were initially unable to determine the cause.

“I had a fever of unknown origin for a month and I had to undergo a battery of tests. A CT scan later revealed that I had polycystic kidney disease,” said Judi, who works as the medical student and geriatric fellowship coordinator at Abington Hospital.

Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disorder that can cause cysts to develop primarily in the kidneys but also in other parts of the body, including the liver. Over time, the disease can lead to high blood pressure and kidney failure.

Life Changing Diagnosis

After her diagnosis, Judi made some dietary changes and continued to see her doctors regularly to monitor the health and function of her kidneys and liver. After several years, the disease got worse.

“Over time, life slowed down dramatically as my liver continued to grow with cysts and crowd out my other organs,” she said. “My doctor told me I had end-stage kidney disease and that I would soon need to start dialysis and should register for a transplant before the failure.”

Judi was put on the transplant waiting list for a liver and a kidney in January 2017. In July, she was scheduled to go on an annual family trip but was unable to attend due to her declining health.

“Every year we go on this trip and I was really looking forward to attending. I tried to push myself but the dialysis treatments drained me of all my energy,” said Judi.

Little did she know, the setback of missing her family trip would lead to the opportunity of a lifetime.

“My husband and I were standing at the deli counter of a grocery store when I got the call. They informed me that there was a kidney and a liver available and I had to be at the hospital in an hour for surgery,” said Judi.

She and her husband quickly drove to Jefferson Transplant Institute, where Judi was immediately checked in and prepped for surgery.

“My transplant surgeon, Dr. Maley, was in my room with the anesthesiologist 10 minutes after I arrived. Everything happened so fast and I felt so safe,” said Judi.

Life After Surgery

While her surgery was successful, Judi’s road to recovery wasn’t easy. “Some days I had setbacks, just like anyone else, but I kept getting stronger,” she said.

Her health continued to improve and in June 2018, nearly a year after her surgery, Judi was back to her active self again. She joined a gym and even ran a 5K.

“I chose to run a 5K as a challenge for myself,” said Judi. “There was a reason why I was given this second chance, and I’m determined not to let this life go to waste.”

As a way of paying it forward, Judi recently became a Gift of Life Ambassador. According to the Gift of Life Donor Program, one organ donor can save up to eight people and one tissue donor can help as many as 75 people.

“I would encourage everyone to become an organ donor. It only takes a few minutes to sign-up,” she said. “And for anyone who is going through the transplant process, don’t be afraid. Miracles happen every day.”

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  • Life-Saving Double Transplant Helps Abington Hospital Employee Get Back on Track