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Your Healthy Family: Kidney patient builds special relationship with UCHealth staff through near-death, and life experiences

Posted at 12:49 PM, Sep 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 15:29:25-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Bobby McKee is an Indiana boy who moved to Colorado Springs and has come to call the staff on the renal medicine unit at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central his family.

Bobby says he was born with kidney issues and grew up knowing at that at some point, he would need a new one. “My senior year in high school, I got my first kidney transplant. One person was tested and it was my mom. Sure enough, she was a match, so I never had to do dialysis before my first transplant.”

About 15 years later, kidney failure returned, and with it a more challenging search for a kidney donor. Bobby says that's when he experienced firsthand how debilitating living with kidney failure is. “I barely had any energy, I didn't hardly eat. I had to leave my job and just stay at home because it was debilitating. When you're on dialysis sometimes you retain fluid quite a bit, and it affects your oxygen level. There are a lot of pretty terrible things that can signify kidney failure and kidney disease.”

About the same time his kidney was failing for a second time, Bobby met the love of his life. “I moved to Colorado in 2018. I met a girl, sold my house and was here three months after I met her. Moving out here with Tiffany has been the best decision because not only do I have her and the kids, but I have a medical staff that will do anything to take care of me.”

Bobby was introduced to the nursing staff that would become his new extended family not long after moving here. Bobby says, “A few years ago my fiancé, Tiffany, came home and found me having grand mal seizures in the living room. I eventually went unconscious and went without oxygen for a couple of minutes. When the paramedics showed up they didn't think I was going to make it. Apparently I was in the ICU for several days. I don't remember that at all - and that’s pretty scary.”

Alysha Jackson, a CNA who took care of Bobby on the renal medicine unit, says, “I have known Bobby for the past three years, now going on four years. He has been a patient in our unit a number of times and I’ve always taken care of him. Getting to know Bobby and his fiancé, Tiffany, there is a connection there and my heart would ache for him, seeing him in here so young so full of life but yet his kidneys would not let him live.”

Jennifer Johnson, an RN on the renal medicine unit says, “I met Bobby in the emergency department, because of some dialysis treatments we do in the emergency room. I have had to do procedures on him in the ICU when he has been intubated. Over the years he has been on our floor multiple times; I can't even name the amount, but because of that, he has become part of our family.”

A family that not only cared for him getting him through a very rough period of his life, but also rode the emotional roller coaster of searching for a kidney donor. Jennifer says: “One time he was in-patient when the news came through that a candidate didn’t work out, and he was tearful.”

Bobby remembers, “It's very, very easy to lose hope. I had three donors that got to the very last test, and they found something wrong. One of them had polycystic kidneys and (if she hadn’t been tested as a donor) she never would've known - until she would have needed a kidney transplant. But for me, It was incredibly easy to lose hope.”

In our next story, as Bobby finds a donor, learn how his UCHealth family supported him through his transplant that happened back in Indiana, and how their special relationship continues with the staff every time he comes to Memorial Hospital for regular blood work. His quality of life has improved since transplant, and we’ll talk about how you can help someone like Bobby in the future by looking into becoming a kidney donor.

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