On Both Sides of Caring: Complete Kidney Care from Dialysis to Transplant

Leslie O'Donnell

Leslie O’Donnell has been on both sides of the wonderful care at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital’s kidney dialysis center. After her mother received dialysis in its outpatient dialysis center for 20 years, O’Donnell ended up working there and then becoming a patient herself. “I was so pleased with the care that they gave my mother for years that I decided to give up being a hairdresser to become a renal technologist,” she recalls. “I ended up working at the center for 13 years.”

O’Donnell, 45, suffers from the same hereditary condition that her mother had—polycystic kidney disease (PKD). The condition causes fluid-filled cysts to grow in the kidneys that eventually lead to kidney failure. Diagnosed at the age of 13, her first kidney was removed in 2013 and the second one in 2015. Kidneys are critical organs, removing waste, electrolytes, and fluid from the blood. People can function with only one kidney, but need dialysis or a kidney transplant when both kidneys fail.

“I just started kidney dialysis in May of last year at MedStar Good Samaritan,” she recollects. “After receiving excellent care there for a few months, I got access to peritoneal dialysis, which I can do every day in the comfort of home. I can take my supplies with me—there’s no machine, just a pole, a bag, solution, and a sterile environment. It gives me more freedom.”

She credits Luis Gimenez, MD, her nephrologist (kidney specialist) at MedStar Good Samaritan, with saving her life. “With PKD, I was at high risk for a brain aneurysm and had five of them. I had a severe headache, and Dr. Gimenez found that one of my aneurysms was ready to burst. I underwent a craniotomy, then had a second brain surgery in 2013.” Dr. Gimenez, who is also chief, Renal Medicine, notes, “Our kidney services have repeatedly won awards. We have a long history of superb patient care, providing more than 46,000 high-quality dialysis treatments each year.”

Everything You Need

Luis Gimenez, MD
Luis Gimenez, MD

“Good Sam has an exceptional dialysis unit,” exclaims O’Donnell. “The facility is one of the largest in Maryland and the doctors are right there on site. You have everything you need. And my peritoneal dialysis nurse from Good Sam is very attentive. She came to my home when I started and taught me how to do home dialysis.” Kidney transplantation is the treatment of choice because it offers people a longer and better quality of life than dialysis. However, especially for certain rare blood types, the shortage of available kidneys means that many people must wait years for a transplant. For her transplant, O’Donnell selected the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute.

Matthew Cooper, MD, its director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation, explains, “We evaluate patients right at MedStar Good Samaritan’s Good Health Center twice a month, where our team carefully assesses
patients to clear them for a transplant.” He adds, “In addition to our groundbreaking treatments and technology, our program provides individualized attention to each patient. Our providers treat patients like part of the family.”

Matthew Cooper, MD
Matthew Cooper, MD

O’Donnell explains, “I got to meet the whole transplant team right here—the social worker, dietitian, transplant nurse, and doctor. One month later the social worker called me and told me I was on the waiting list. With my blood type, I likely will wait three to five years until they find a match.” Dr. Cooper and his team encourage people to become more informed about living donation of kidneys. “Even people with diabetes or kidney disease can donate a kidney if they take care of themselves.” While waiting to find a matching kidney donor, O’Donnell will benefit from the ongoing care at MedStar Good Samaritan. “They have everything I need,” she says with a smile.

This article appeared in the summer 2016 issue of Good Health. Read more articles from this issue.

Location Information

Renal/Nephrology Department
MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
3rd Floor, Main Hospital Building (3 North)
Baltimore, MD 21239
443-444-3775

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