It started as a pair of pesky nosebleeds. Kids get nosebleeds all the time. But after the first took 45 minutes to stop and a second nosebleed the following morning, Kathy and James Yates knew it was time to take their daughter to the emergency room.
On the morning of Oct. 1, 2006, 7-year-old Brandi’s blood pressure was dangerously high and her kidneys were failing. Within hours, she was airlifted from Waterloo to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, the only hospital in Iowa with a dedicated pediatric dialysis center.
“It was a pretty scary situation,” recalls James, who had to watch his daughter being taken away by helicopter.
After two weeks in the intensive care unit and eight months of dialysis, Brandi’s aunt donated one of her kidneys in June 2007. With a successful transplant, Brandi was soon able to get back to being a normal kid.
But two years later, Brandi’s blood pressure began to creep up again. Brandi was again losing her kidney. Tissue samples showed Brandi had atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that mainly affects children and is often characterized by kidney failure.
At that time, Brandi was the only person in eastern Iowa to be diagnosed with atypical HUS, and she traveled to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital three times a week for dialysis.
“It’s a home away from home,” Kathy says. “[The staff] all know her by name and she knows them all by name.”
Despite Brandi’s previously unsuccessful kidney transplant, her pediatric nephrologist suggested another transplant. She received a second kidney in October 2010 from an anonymous donor.
Brandi sees many of the staff members as parent figures, people she knows she can go to for help.
“The doctors are amazing,” she says.
Brandi still returns to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital every two weeks for medication, and likely will for the rest of her life.
The Yates family is thankful for UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital and its staff’s commitment to support Brandi and everyone close to her.
“We can’t praise them enough,” says Kathy. “They don’t just treat the child, they treat the whole family.”
Brandi’s older sister, Shelby, looked forward to visiting Brandi during her treatment.
“It’s not like a regular hospital,” she says. “The doctors are awesome. They’re uplifting.”
Brandi’s twin sister, Brittany, also appreciated everything the Child Life staff did for them.
Through all the hard times, the Yates family has gained perspective and is confident they can overcome any obstacle.
“I’m almost glad for having this problem,” Brandi says. “My family and I can take it.”
Shelby agrees, “We’re a strong family, and we can handle anything.”