Meet Alena Rothwell, kidney transplant recipient

WVU transplant patient: Alena Rothwell.When Alena Rothwell, 47, of Fairmont, West Virginia, came to WVU Medicine, it wasn’t her first transplant experience. In 2004, she went to the doctor with a complaint of fatigue and was diagnosed with kidney failure due to sarcoidosis. She received her first kidney transplant at 29 years old.

Fourteen years later, her transplanted kidney had reached the end of its life and started to decline, causing her to have to go back on dialysis.

“I had to make some alterations to my life. I was working full time remotely, but I traveled a lot back and forth to Florida for business, so I had to kind of alter my lifestyle a little bit to kind of fit my dialysis. After work, when I was traveling, I would go to local dialysis centers wherever I was traveling for work, get treatment, then go on about my day. When I went on peritoneal dialysis, it allowed me to do my treatments myself. I would take the equipment with me, do my treatments while I was sleeping, then go about my day,” Alena said.

“I was pretty much independent while I was on dialysis. I traveled on vacations and for work and went to school part time to finish my second degree. I still had my good days and my bad days. It was a burden, but it kept me alive.”

Alena was on dialysis for three years while she waited for a new kidney. She registered on the transplant list at Mayo Clinic in Florida and received a few calls during that time, but the wait list was long. When the WVU Medicine Transplant Alliance opened a transplant center in 2019, her nephrologist referred her. She decided to transfer her primary time she had spent on the wait list to WVU Medicine while remaining on the list at the Mayo Clinic because she hadn’t received calls about a possible match.

In June 2021, Alena received the call that a possible match had been found.

“I had a lot of mixed emotions because I had a lot of false starts in the past with kidneys that didn’t work out,” Alena said. “I was kind of nervous about this time around that will actually work out. But it did. Thank God it worked out.”

Alena received her new kidney on June 12, and after her body had some time to adjust after the surgery, she recovered well. She underwent a second surgery shortly after her transplant to address fluid collection in the abdomen, repair a hernia, remove mesh from the transplant surgery, and remove her peritoneal catheter from dialysis.

“The transplant team is amazing. The surgeons are great and then also my nurse coordinator. I would say the overall experience with the transplant team is great.”

Alena has returned to work full-time in healthcare quality and is pursuing a master’s degree in Healthcare Management at Fairmont State University. She continues to travel for work and enjoys spending vacations with her family.

“Being on dialysis is hard because your kidney function is still so low. Now that I’ve had my transplant, I don’t worry about whether I’ll pass away,” Alena said. “It’s so much better after my transplant.”