She did, however, make some lifestyle changes because “I was trying to avoid it at all costs,” she says. Lauren adopted a restrictive low-protein diet and increased her water intake. She also worked with Dr. Fernandez to adjust her medication to better manage her blood pressure.
Despite Lauren’s best efforts, her kidneys continued to decline at an alarmingly rapid rate. Over the next four months, Lauren would regularly be in and out of the hospital to manage her blood pressure, which would often register as high as 180/100. She was also becoming increasingly lethargic and losing weight.
By the beginning of May, Lauren had grown so weak that she couldn’t leave the couch and barely touched a meal. Jeanne insisted they go to the emergency room. Only this time when Lauren was admitted to NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, her condition was so severe that she immediately underwent an emergency procedure to implant a dialysis catheter.
“I remember waking up from the procedure as they were rolling me into my room and the dialysis machine was already set up,” recalls Lauren. “The dialysis nurse was ready to go right then and there. I was barely awake. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe this is happening.’”
Meanwhile, even though Jeanne was a match for Lauren and eager to donate her kidney, a transplant wasn’t possible because most surgeries were postponed in New York City due to the coronavirus outbreak. That meant that Lauren had to endure dialysis for a while longer as COVID-19 continued to wreak havoc across the city.
“It was really hard to know that the kidney was right there in the room with me, yet I had to keep going through those dialysis sessions,” says Lauren.
She transitioned from inpatient dialysis to outpatient treatment three days a week, for 1 ½ hours at a time in the beginning. But as the weeks went on — and her kidney failure advanced quickly — her sessions got bumped up to two hours, then three. Sadly, Lauren only seemed to get worse.
“She was losing weight rapidly,” recalls Jeanne, who witnessed her daughter go from 84 pounds to a frail 64 pounds in a matter of weeks. “It was so painful to watch. It’s a horrible existence for anyone, but for a young girl who should be in the prime of her college days going out and having fun, it’s just not a good way to live.”
Meanwhile, all of Lauren’s qualms about undergoing a second transplant were no longer of concern. “When I was on dialysis, it got to the point that I thought, ‘I cannot do this anymore,’” says Lauren. “‘If a transplant is what is going to make me feel better and get me back to living my daily life, then I’ll do it.’”