JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Thirty-one-year-old Jaime Ortez has found laughter again.
About a month ago, she learned she's getting her life back after kidney disease that started 11 years ago.
"I noticed my feet were starting to swell a lot," Jaime says, and she told a doctor about her problems at that time.
Blood work led to a kidney biopsy. "The kidney biopsy showed some crescent shaped scars on kidney tissue they pulled, indicative of IGA Nephropathy," she says. The disease was manageable for about nine years. "When I was 29, I really started going downhill," she says.
Jaime spent five days in the hospital in Texas, where she lives, and was put on a transplant list. The list for her blood type is the longest. "Unfortunately, I have a rare blood type, B+," she says.
Jaime's uncle, Jay Myers, is B+ and underwent a strenuous battery of tests last year, only to find out months later that his blood pressure was elevated just enough to disqualify him.
"It was very hard to get through that time because I had seen the light at the end of the tunnel, that I was going to get my life back," Jaime says.
At the time, Jaime's cousin, Clare McGregor, was simply a shoulder to cry on. "She's probably my favorite girl cousin," Clare says.
Claire, 19 years old at the time, lived in Dallas with Jaime and her husband.
"My mom is AB, my siblings are AB, my dad is A+," Clare says. It never dawned on the cousins to check Claire's blood type. But in March she had it checked during a routine blood work-up at the doctor's office where Jaime worked.
"I looked, it said B+. She was sitting across the room at the reception desk. I said, Clare, you need to see this," Jaime says.
Clare wasted no time. "(I said) Jaime, do you know the number to your transplant coordinator, let's get this ball rolling," she says.
Jaime never would have guessed that the little cousin who's diapers she used to change, would eventually change her life.
The transplant surgery should take place in May 2011, at Baylor University in Texas. It will tighten a bond between cousins that never realized how much they have in common.
"It's a huge gift. I tell her every day I love her," Jaime says.
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