Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Health

Erika Bragan starts the new year with a new kidney thanks to friend's Tinder date

TAMPA — When Erika Bragan woke up from surgery, she noticed a difference immediately.

"I knew I felt better already," she said.

This time last year Bragan, 44, was wondering how much longer her kidneys would last before dialysis became the only option. She has suffered from polycystic kidney disease since her early teens.

She now celebrates the new year with a new kidney.

In a heartwarming story first reported by the Tampa Bay Times ( tbtim.es/u3p), Bragan found a kidney donor through a friend's blind date. Rich O'Dea, a friend of Bragan's husband, Scott, matched with Jennifer Thomas on Tinder, a mobile dating app.

After a date, Thomas, 34, decided to get tested to see if she could be a donor for Bragan, who was down to 5 percent kidney function.

A few months later, Thomas was deemed a match. On Nov. 18, she successfully donated her left kidney, saving Bragan a lifetime of dialysis.

Thomas and Bragan's story went viral, with coverage in national and international news outlets. Since the surgery, the Bragans, Thomas and O'Dea have been doing interviews almost weekly.

"Not only do our close friends know about (the story), the world knows about it," Scott Bragan, 47, said. "It's been pretty overwhelming."

The changes in Erika Bragan's health were immediately apparent. She sleeps better at night, can eat without worrying about feeling sick and no longer has to take multiple naps during the day. "I have a lot more energy, and I can eat whatever I want now," she said.

One of the first foods she ate after surgery was McDonald's french fries. Her first big meal of the year was Thanksgiving dinner with her family.

Though normal complications after major surgery kept Bragan in the hospital for a couple of weeks, she was sent home a little after midnight on Thanksgiving Day.

Now she finds it hard to sit still. Last week, she did her first run since May.

The first month after surgery was critical, with Bragan having to wear a mask to protect from sickness. Because of her antirejection medication, she will have a compromised immune system for the rest of her life.

Both she and Scott Bragan agree that's better than dialysis.

Her kidney donor, Thomas, who has remained overwhelmingly positive through the process, said she is completely recovered from surgery. She said it has been relatively easy for her body to adjust to having only one kidney.

"I already knew it was going to go great," Thomas said. "I woke up (from surgery) feeling like I got hit by a train, but it was nothing in comparison (to what Bragan went through)."

Thomas won't have to take special medications or do much more testing. She will just go in for normal checkups.

While the two women have recovered from surgery, Scott Bragan and his running group, Team Tampa PKD, are still working to raise awareness about kidney donations. The team has been running marathons, raising more than $100,000 for the PKD Foundation since 2009.

"We are going to continue to run marathons. We're hoping to do another (this year)," O'Dea said. "There are other people who have this disease. (We want to) continue to raise money and awareness for medications and cures."

Erika Bragan and Thomas have become close since the surgery. They joke with family and friends about "Erika taking a part of Jennifer wherever she goes."

"Her (Thomas) optimism really carried the team. Her positivity is contagious," Scott Bragan said. "She carries around rainbow stickers in her purse, calls it Jenfetti, and hands them out to anyone and everyone."

Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.

Comments
Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

GENEVA ó Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing. In its latest revision to a disease class...
Published: 06/19/18
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
Itís time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Itís time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
Itís important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

Itís important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, donít forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. Thatís because both products work to protect your body from the sunís damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG ó Kidney disease doesnít discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Published: 06/08/18
Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

YES, MELANOMAS CAN BEGIN IN THE EYEIs it true that melanoma can develop in the eyes? If so, how common is it? How is it treated?Melanomas can begin in the eye, a condition called intraocular melanoma. Treatment for intraocular melanomas used to prima...
Published: 06/08/18
For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

High-intensity interval training is one of the biggest trends in fitness, but it has always seemed a bit scary to me. To a mere mortal with achy knees and an aging body, even the acronym ó HIIT ó sounded intimidating.But recently, I overcame my fears...
Published: 06/08/18
Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: Ďdraggedí

Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: Ďdraggedí

By KATIE WORKMANOne of the amazing things about Italian food is that the best dishes are often so completely, refreshingly simple. Like, four-ingredient simple. (We donít count olive oil and salt. Or water. Or air.) I love broccoli. I can roast brocc...
Published: 06/08/18
What to get Dad? Try a Fatherís Day gift that will do him good

What to get Dad? Try a Fatherís Day gift that will do him good

Dads are notoriously tough to shop for. Theyíre not all that great at dropping hints, the way moms do, and if you ask what your dad might want or need for Fatherís Day, heíll likely say, "Nothing" or "Donít spend your money" or "I just want to be wit...
Published: 06/08/18