The gift of life: Local mother donates hope

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 9, 2015

the gift: Moments before the transplant surgery,  from left Tenesha Dickens and Brenda DeArmas met for the first time.  Photo submitted

the gift: Moments before the transplant surgery, from left Tenesha Dickens and Brenda DeArmas met for the first time.
Photo submitted

For five years, Picayune resident Brenda DeArmas suffered from an unknown source of chronic pain. This past April, DeArmas relieved that pain by giving life to another.
The Louisiana native, who is employed with the Pearl River County Utility Authority, moved to Picayune in 2003.
Five-years ago, she noticed a pain in her right side that wouldn’t go away.
“I saw a number of doctors and underwent multiple tests,” DeArmas said. “My doctors discovered that my kidney was moving, a rare condition known as floating kidney.”
After her diagnosis, DeArmas underwent reattachment surgery, which failed, and the pain and problems came back.
Her local doctor, Dr. Lopez, referred her to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where she was given three treatment options by Dr. Christopher Anderson.
Her first option was to have her kidney removed and transplanted back into her body. The second was to remove the kidney altogether and get rid of it.
However, when she heard her third option, DeArmas said a sense of unexplained peace enveloped her.
“The doctor told me that I could donate my kidney and my husband and I knew that donating was the right choice,” DeArmas said. “I knew removing my kidney would solve my pain problem and give life to someone else that had maybe lost hope.”
DeArmas’ only request was her kidney be given to a mother in need with young children, a request her doctors readily accepted.
“Being a mother myself,” DeArmas said. “I know the important role we play in the lives of our children.”
Thirty-two-year old Tenesha Dickens is the mother of three young children and for the past six years has suffered from kidney failure.
“Six-years ago, I was sick for about three weeks in a row,” Dickens said. “Initially, I thought I was pregnant. The doctors tested me for a number of illnesses and eventually discovered I was in kidney failure.”
In February of 2013, when her kidney function was down to about 17 percent, she began home dialysis, also known as peritoneal dialysis. The treatments took about seven to eight hours every day.
As a result, Dickens said she didn’t have the energy participate in activities with her children, she shut people out and was prone to depression.
Dickens began hemodialysis in January of this year, which required an hour drive from her home in Petal to a dialysis facility in Richton.
“When I started the hemodialysis on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I was very weak and never planned anything,” Dickens said. “When I was first diagnosed and began dialysis I thought I would be more depressed, but once I started I prayed about it and knew I wouldn’t be on dialysis forever.”
Finding a perfect match would prove to be difficult as Dickens’ antibodies levels were at 82 percent, which meant only about 17 percent of the population would be a potential donor, she said.
On March 10, Dickens got a call from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
“They told me they had a live donor and asked if I would be interested,” Dickens said. “I was so excited and couldn’t sit down.”
The transplant was scheduled for April 9 and prior to surgery DeArmas and Dickens met for the first time.
“I can’t describe the feelings I had when I met her,” Dickens said. “I was excited and called her my guardian angel, she’s another member of my family now.”
DeArmas describes the initial meeting as emotional.
“I felt an overwhelming amount of love when I met her,” DeArmas said. “Since the transplant we have remained in contact. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind the entire donation and transplant was orchestrated by God. I am no hero. I give all glory and praise to my Savior Jesus Christ.”
As for Dickens, she said her children and husband get their mom and wife back.
“I can begin planning and participating in activities and vacations with them once again,” Dickens said. “My six-year-old daughter told me ‘Mama, we can go to the beach together and you can get in the water with me.’ I just want to run after and chase my children.”
Dickens, who has a bachelor of science in psychology, plans to attain a masters degree in either psychology or social work. However, nursing school may also be an option.
“I’m ready to go back to school. If I decided on nursing school I would want to be a dialysis nurse, because what better person to be one than someone who’s been there. I can inspire them and give them hope,” Dickens said. “I just want to thank Brenda, like I do everyday. I am truly blessed. When she was born, God knew Tenesha would need a kidney. I love her and feel like I’ve known her for a lifetime.”

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