After 10-Year Wait, Teenager Celebrates a New Kidney
Transplant Gives South Carolina Teen a New Lease on Life
MaryAshley Barbot waited 10 years for a new kidney, but the hospitals near her South Carolina home were unable to find a match. Now, the teenager is in the best health of her life, six months after receiving a kidney transplant at Cedars-Sinai.
Barbot was born with a kidney defect and had her first transplant when she was just 20 months old. When she turned 9, though, her body rejected that kidney, and Barbot’s parents mounted multiple donor drives and awareness events to do everything they could to find a kidney donor for their daughter. Although many potential donors came forward, they weren’t a match.
“I hoped and prayed that it would happen,” said Charlene Barbot, MaryAshley’s mother, “but after seeing hundreds of people try to be tested and waiting years and years, there were definitely times it didn’t seem like it would happen.”
That’s when their physicians at the Medical University of South Carolina recommended the family visit the transplant program at Cedars-Sinai.
Dechu Puliyanda, MD, director of Pediatric Nephrology at Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s, says Barbot’s case was particularly challenging because her previous transplant and rejection meant she had high levels of antibodies in her blood. The more antibodies, the harder it is to find a match.
“We look at the extent of antibodies, where 0% means no antibodies and 100% is complete antibodies, and when we first met MaryAshley, she was at 99.9% of antibodies, which meant it would be extremely difficult for her body to accept a foreign kidney,” Puliyanda said.
Cedars-Sinai is renowned for inventing a treatment that clears antibodies from the blood. The protocol was first developed at Cedars-Sinai by Stanley Jordan, MD, 25 years ago, and involves a plasmapheresis machine that clears the blood of antibodies and then several medications to help the body accept a new kidney. The protocol was a success for MaryAshley.
This past September, the family received the call they’d been waiting for. A kidney was available for MaryAshley. Her father, Chip Barbot, says the call came at 3:30 p.m. on a Thursday.
“We were on a plane within four hours, and MaryAshley was in surgery, receiving a new kidney just 12 hours later,” he said.
The family stayed in Los Angeles throughout the winter holiday season while MaryAshley recovered from her transplant surgery.
In addition to her kidney defect, MaryAshley was born with developmental delays and speech and hearing impairments. But, despite her limited speech, her personality shines through. She dyes her hair bright green and wears nail polish to match. She is a true fan of several young Hollywood actors and has their pictures with her when she is in the hospital, including on her themed blankets and pillows. She is excited to be attending prom later this month and is nominated for prom queen. She already has her sparkling green dress picked out.
This month, coinciding with National Donate Life Month, MaryAshley and her mother were back at Cedars-Sinai for her six-month checkup. MaryAshley brought gifts—coffee mugs with pictures of her and her caregivers—for her nurses and physicians, and there were big hugs with each meeting.
Pediatric kidney specialist Puliyanda is delighted with MaryAshley’s progress.
“In my mind, this was almost a last-ditch effort,” Puliyanda said. “The fact that we found a match after her being on dialysis for more than 10 years is like beyond winning the lottery.”
Her mom says MaryAshley grew a full inch since her transplant and is doing fantastic.
“She is vibrant; she’s excited about every day. We can barely get through one day before she’s asking, ‘What can we do tomorrow?’ She’s full of life and energy and excitement,” Charlene Barbot said. “The transplant gave us our daughter back.”
Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: A Kidney Transplant and a Visit from Rampage: Jordan Kirkland's Story