Third time's the charm for Number 900

Third time's the charm for Number 900

URBANA — Tandra Perkins has given herself a new nickname — T-900.

And she's feeling pretty good about that number, because it marks a milestone at the hospital where she got a new kidney and launched a new life, saying goodbye to 13 years on dialysis.

Earlier this month, Perkins, 44, of Urbana, became the 900th patient to undergo a transplant procedure at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield.

When she heard the news that a kidney was available for her after spending a year on a waiting list, Perkins said she was at one of her dialysis sessions. She was advised to get off the dialysis machine, and her husband, Michael, was already gassing up the car for their trip to Springfield.

"I was thanking the Lord all the way up there," she said.

A native of Evansville, Ind., Perkins said she became seriously ill with high blood pressure toward the end of 2001, and was first placed on dialysis in the spring of 2002.

She once worked as a cashier and at a warehouse in Evansville, but she hasn't been able to work since she became sick.

The dialysis that had been keeping her alive has also consumed a lot of her life. Treatments were three times a week, four hours each, and they could leave her feeling drained, Perkins said.

Two previous attempts to get her a kidney didn't work out. The first would have been a living kidney donation from her husband, who has been her supporter throughout her illness, she said, and the second would have been from a deceased donor. She and her husband were actually on their way to Springfield that second time when the hospital called with the news that this kidney also wasn't going to work for her, and they had to turn around.

"I put my head up to God and I prayed, and the third time was the charm," she said.

Since her surgery, she's getting around slowly, thankful to her doctors and transplant team and looking forward to the prospect of working again and being able to make longer visits to her family back in Evansville.

Dr. Marc Garfinkel, who performed Perkins' surgery and the surgical director of the transplant program, described Perkins as a "wonderful lady" who has really embraced her surprise role as transplant patient 900.

"I can tell you that she's done very well, and that we're pleased with her progress," he said.

The Alan G. Birtch, MD, Center for Transplant Services at Memorial Medical Center was started in 1972 and is a cooperative venture between the hospital, Springfield Clinic and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. It serves patients from throughout the central and southern parts of Illinois, including a growing number from the Champaign-Urbana area, where there aren't any local transplant programs, said Garfinkel, who is also a professor at SIU School of Medicine's division of general surgery.

The next upcoming milestone for the transplant program, he said: Transplant patient 1,000.

The numbers

101,662: People in the U.S. waiting for kidney transplants, as of late April.

3,000: Added to the kidney transplant waiting list every month.

4,270: Deaths in 2014 of those still waiting for kidney transplants.

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