Kathy Bannister does not take much for granted. Shopping for groceries, dancing on her wedding day, and cooking for grandchildren take on a different meaning when there is a possibility you might not live to do them. As a three-time kidney recipient, Kathy treasures every moment – the big ones and the small ones – because without the ultimate gift of life through the unselfish generosity of the organ donors and their families, she would not be able to treasure them.
Shortly after the birth of her first child, Karmen, Kathy began to feel ill and just couldn't get back to her same level of energy and health. Within three years she was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that destroyed her kidneys. As a young mother in her early 20's Kathy began life on hemodialysis, not knowing what the future would hold. Kathy was encouraged by her physician to try for a transplant, even though the odds of survival were only 50/50.
At age 29 Kathy received her first transplant, which helped her to regain her youthful energy. She was able to go shopping for groceries and play with her daughter, which were a challenge before the transplant. The donation also brought with it another exciting moment, her second child, Bruce. Kathy knew how much each day was a gift and she enjoyed every one of them. As she approached the 15th year after her donation, she fell ill – her kidney was failing. Kathy would once again need dialysis to stay alive.
Kathy had much to live for, her beautiful children and the upcoming marriage to her husband, Scott. The invitations had been sent, the plans were well on their way when they received the very best wedding present they could have hoped for; Kathy would receive a transplant. One month after the transplant, on May 24, 1996, Kathy and Scott danced at their wedding – a memory forever etched in their hearts.
The second transplant gave her another 15 healthy years of life until she found herself in need of dialysis again, this time for four years. Kathy and Scott dared to hope that she could have another transplant.
Just as they had received an early wedding gift, Kathy and Scott received an early Christmas present, a call from Dr. Chaudhry and the Transplant Team at Iowa Methodist Medical Center – Kathy would receive her third kidney transplant. This incredible gift has once again brought new meaning to life in the big and small moments. Their family has grown to three grandchildren who she loves to spend time with and cook their favorite meals.
Family and friends all were tested to be her donor, but none were a match. Her transplants would come from people she would never have a chance to tell just how much their ultimate gift meant to her and her family.
As Kathy shared,
"The donations of life have given me the freedom to live a normal, very full and happy life. Activities like errands and cooking meals that were at one time too exhausting became manageable. I don't take for granted doing dishes or grocery shopping, because it means so much to me to be able to care for my husband and family. It is very difficult for me to put into words the gratitude I feel. Each time I received a call that a kidney was available for me I felt incredible joy that was immediately followed by sadness for the family who lost a loved one. Realizing that a life lost, which allowed mine to continue, was a very humbling experience. I want the donors and families to know how wonderful they are, and how truly appreciate and grateful I am."
Whether it is spending time with family, doing household chores, watching the sun set or having dinner with friends, every moment has a special meaning for Kathy. It is because of the ultimate gift of life she can treasure the moments and it is because of this incredible gift she lives every moment to its fullest and most importantly, with gratitude.