Early in 2018, transplant physicians did not think that 38-year-old Jeritha Brown from St. Clair Shores would survive all that her body had suffered, including the rejection of her newly transplanted kidney. The nephrologist who knew her best said, “You don’t know Jeritha. She’s a fighter.”
And fight she did, spending two months battling not to reject her new kidney. In March, she walked out of the hospital. You can read her amazing story here as captured by the St. Clair Shores Sentinel.
Fast forward to May 2019. Just as she had promised, Jeritha gathered a team of family and friends, named the team “Blessed” and walked in the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo. “I met and walked with Ryan Stanford from Roseville, who had been featured on Fox 2 News — it was a great group,” says Jeritha.”
After the walk, Jeritha did not slow down at all. “I really enjoyed being in ‘mommy’ mode at first since I was hospitalized while my youngest, Amiracle, was young,” she says. Even so, she still managed to fit a lot more into the years after her transplant, including earning a high school diploma.
By November 2019, Jeritha was speaking at hospitals, churches and other venues to discuss kidney disease and encourage people to sign up to be donors. She is also active with Gift of Life Michigan, staffing organ donation booths at health centers. “I get lots of people to sign up!” she says with pride. “All my kids who drive are donors on their drivers’ licenses.”
Jeritha continues her volunteer work as a kidney disease peer mentor, which she finds the most fulfilling. These mentors are people with kidney disease who work one on one with those newly diagnosed with kidney disease to support them, answer their questions and help them navigate the health care system. “I have mentored three people with kidney disease. One woman with two children was very young and very scared. She also could not read or write very well. I helped her fill out forms and went with her to her appointments so she could get on the transplant list,” she recalls.
She started the medical assistant program at the Dorsey Schools Roseville campus, making the Dean’s list for the first four modules. During Jeritha’s first semester there, the Dean asked her to speak to everyone at the school about the importance of organ donation. The courses are now remote, but she hopes she can return to campus soon.
The COVID pandemic is still keeping her at home. With the immunosuppressant medications she takes to maintain her kidney, she is much more susceptible to catching and not being able to fight off the virus. Jeritha had been working in childcare when the pandemic hit and she had to stop working. Several of her five children lost their jobs. They are all staying at home and Jeritha says it is going pretty well. They recently celebrated high school graduations for James and Ariel.
“I wouldn’t change anything about my life because it made me who I am. I love telling my story to people.” Her story has inspired everyone from her teachers at the Dorsey Schools to the staff at the Ascension St. John Kidney Transplant Specialty Center.
Like many people who have gone through something that other people might not survive, she is writing a book. “I am so blessed that I’m here,” she says. “I’m also glad that telling my story helps other people.”
Jeritha was one of the first team captains to register for the 2020 Kidney Walk at the Detroit Zoo, now scheduled for Sunday, August 16. Follow her lead by visiting nkfm.org/walks.