Jun 2, 2021
Home Free: A Story of Resilience

Lindsay O’Donnell just felt…off. At 20, she’d given birth to her son, Blaine, a few months earlier, so fatigue was expected. Joint pain, nosebleeds and rosacea were not.

The diagnosis was lupus; she received it on Halloween 2002. While O’Donnell began managing one life-changing disease, another would soon follow. 

When someone is diagnosed with a chronic condition like lupus, they are more at-risk for developing other chronic diseases, including kidney disease. Lupus nephritis, O’Donnell’s diagnosis, causes inflammation of the small blood vessels in the kidneys that prevents them from properly filtering waste.

The impact on O’Donnell’s kidneys was clear within a few weeks. She received chemotherapy off and on to help delay her disease progression, but her kidneys failed in May 2007.

“I didn’t really understand what that meant,” said O’Donnell. “I thought dialysis was a one-time treatment. The seriousness of what I was about to go through didn’t hit me until my nephrologist said I’d have to do dialysis every other day until I got a kidney transplant.”

Initially, O’Donnell chose to receive dialysis in-center. She prepared by researching everything she could about kidney disease. Still, walking into the dialysis center for the first time was overwhelming.

“It was daunting, but everyone there was prepared to explain everything to me,” said O’Donnell. “That made it easier to keep coming back – and for me to remind myself that dialysis was saving my life.” 

A year into her treatment, O’Donnell received her first kidney transplant. The transplant ultimately failed, and she went back on dialysis. After just a few weeks, she matched to another kidney.

After her body rejected her second transplant, O’Donnell was ready to treat at home.

“I knew that home dialysis would allow me to have more freedom when it came to attending all of Blaine’s activities and just living my life the normal way I want to live. When you’re on dialysis, there’s no reason why you can’t still do things in your normal life you did before.”

O’Donnell is supported by her mother and her care team at DaVita Longview Dialysis while she treats at home in Lake Cherokee, Texas. She relies on both, whether she needs someone to lean on or just a good laugh.

“We all have our days where we’re frustrated,” said O’Donnell. “I have days where I break down because I don’t want to do dialysis today. My care team takes the time to make sure I'm feeling OK. They care about my health, sure, but they also care about my life and my happiness.”

The Power of Connection 

O’Donnell is not alone in her journey with kidney disease. Thirty-seven million people in the U.S. share the same diagnosis. Many are fearful of what’s to come.

One of the most effective ways to overcome that fear is for patients to share their stories of managing kidney illness. O’Donnell’s patient educator and home dialysis nurse believed that her story could inspire other patients, so they asked her if they could shared it with others at DaVita.

Eventually, the story inspired DaVita CEO Javier Rodriguez to reach out and meet virtually with O’Donnell in 2020. Video of their wide-ranging conversation is now being shared – to more than 205,000 patients, their care partners and DaVita teammates.

Upon their meeting, Rodriguez relayed this to O’Donnell, “When I hear stories like yours, I want them to cascade because you can spread so much hope to so many people in a very traumatic, very meaningful time in their lives. You’re inspiring thousands of people who are going to hear your message.”

O’Donnell hasn’t just lived with kidney failure, she’s thrived. She works full-time as a store manager for Starbucks, enjoys exploring new places by traveling with her family and keeps up with her son as he begins college.