Feb 27, 2023
From Personal “Marathon” to Professional Passion:
Sharron Rouse turned her experience with kidney transplantation into a career where she helps others pursue transplant
Published with permission from Sharron Rouse

For 20 years, Sharron Rouse built her career in education—from classroom teaching, to counseling to becoming a Title I coordinator. Now, she leverages her years of navigating the education community to help support individuals who are pursuing kidney transplantation.

Along with her background in education, Sharron joined DaVita to support potential transplant candidates with very special experience: She received a transplanted kidney in December 2013 from her sister. 

Here she offers some insight into how her own experience has helped connect with the people she works with as they start or continue their own kidney care journey.

Before you received your kidney transplant, did you receive dialysis treatments?

Yes, I was on dialysis treatments for about 18 months before I received my transplant. 

At first, I was treating with in-center hemodialysis (ICHD), but I was also working full-time at the time. I had chosen a dialysis center close to my job, but it was still difficult. Prior to starting dialysis, my nephrologist recommended I start with peritoneal dialysis (PD, a home modality). I always tell people I was in denial, and I just did not want to accept the fact that I was going to be on dialysis at the time. But then I ended up in the hospital and needed dialysis to start immediately, so I began treatment on ICHD. I was able to transition to PD later—it was much better for my schedule. My nephrologist had also started talking with me about transplantation and getting on the national transplant waitlist as soon as possible.

Creating Equitable Access in Black Communities

Kidney disease affects Black communities at higher rates than other populations; and yet, reports show that Black patient populations are significantly underrepresented in kidney transplantation.

Teammates (DaVita employees), like Sharron, seek to close equity gaps through personalized support. From referral to a transplant center, through evaluation and during the full transplant process, DaVita teams provide education, navigation support and—when necessary—medical guidance that may support transplant eligibility as well as the emotional well-being of potential transplant candidates.

“Navigating the transplant process can be challenging and impacted by a variety of factors. It’s important to identify the unique needs of each individual and meet them where they are with the right support,” says Belinda Paganafanador, manager of clinical programs for DaVita’s national transplant team. “Through this incremental and personalized navigation and coaching, we believe we will begin to address disparities and increase access to transplant for all patients.”  


How did the conversation happen when your sister decided to be evaluated as a potential living donor?

When I told my sister I was going to start dialysis, she asked, “Well, do you need a kidney? I can get tested.” You have to know her—but she’s a fearless person. She’s outgoing, and she was set on supporting me this way.

So, we went and got tested and we found out that she was a match.

How quickly after that did you undergo the surgery?

Even though we knew my sister was a match early on, it took us a full year to get there. We had five different transplant dates before we landed on the actual date.

It surprised both of us!

There were some questions about her hemoglobin levels, and while she felt confident about her health based on her own medical history, the transplant center required some follow-ups to confirm that she was not only mentally and emotionally willing but also physically well-suited for the procedure.

How has your experience as a donor recipient inspired you to work with potential transplant recipients now?

We encountered a lot of barriers and bumps in the road, so it was really a fight to the finish line. I felt like if we could get through that, surely, I can help others get through their journey.

I love to share my experiences to encourage others to keep going.

My goal is to help patients understand the transplant process and make sure the kidney care team, transplant center, and the patient are all on the same page.

What advice would you share with someone thinking about transplantation?

The transplantation process can feel like a marathon, and so it’s important to mentally prepare for that. When someone prepares for a marathon, they don’t just show up to the race and say, “I’m going to knock this out of the park!”

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it, including mental exercises.

With the transplant process, it’s important to be strategic and methodical as you work towards achieving your goal—and understand there may be setbacks.

Having people surround you with support can help with that preparation. Leaning on your care team and working with them to manage your health and maintain your eligibility is important. So is finding people around you with whom you feel comfortable being vulnerable when you do experience setbacks can help you manage the emotions that come with the journey.

In the end, it’s worth it. I encourage people to remember that the experience is bigger than themselves. Once you succeed in receiving a transplant, you have the opportunity to be there for your loved ones, care for them when they need it and enjoy time with them.