After a few messages back and forth in Facebook, I invited Tammy Bratcher to have lunch with me at El Cerro’s on Church Street. I was very interested in her story. Why I find Tammy a unique person to write about is because she is a 40 year-old divorcee who needs a kidney and is actively seeking a donor.
“Why do you need a kidney?” I asked. Having a medical background I knew she was currently on dialysis if she was in need of a kidney transplant.
“I’ve had high blood pressure since I was eleven and now, I’m in end stage renal failure. I’m on dialysis three times a week,” she answered as she reached up and subconsciously touched her shunt that protrudes from her neck.
Dialysis is a procedure performed when a person’s kidneys shut down. A shunt or a port is inserted into the artery and the patient is then hooked up to a machine where their blood is filtered by literally being drained out, cleansed, and then replenished back through the shunt. The procedure is a lifesaving technique performed to remove all the uric acid, waste, and toxins in the body, otherwise, the person could die.
“I have almost died so many times,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve had surgeries for a broken ankle, a broken collar bone, twelve more in the last six months for shunts, I’ve had six car accidents and I’ve even been robbed at gunpoint.”
“Did you say you’ve had six car accidents?” I asked incredulously for confirmation.
Nodding her head she answers, “Yes, some were pretty bad, too. I thought for sure I was going to die and all six cars were totaled and smashed.”
“Did you drive here today?”
“Yes, I did,” she laughs again. “You’re funny.”
“Tell me about being robbed,” I asked as I began working on my nachos supreme that I was sharing with my son.
“I was in a convenience store as it was being robbed and he pointed a gun right at my chest. I’m telling you, I am here by the grace of God and His mercy. I believe He wants me here for a reason.”
“So being robbed, having numerous surgeries and car accidents, what could possibly give you that idea …”
“And I was on life support for ten days while I was in a coma,” Tammy offered spontaneously. “I would like people to know just because someone is in a coma, that doesn’t mean we’re not there. I could hear everything that was going on around me, I just couldn’t respond. I want people to know they should not be so quick to pull the plug; we’re there, we’re trying, and we can hear you.”
We talked about a few different things including the strong family support system she has. Tammy’s been looking for a kidney donor for seven months now and she’s not giving up hope. Her family is very supportive of her needs and does their best to help when able.
“What about these car accidents?” I asked finishing the nachos and ordering some fried ice cream. Since my son likes jalapenos, I had some added to the nachos. Suffice to say I should have known better than to eat them. I had to order the fried ice cream just to cool off the jalapenos.
“The worst one, and the most traumatic, was the one that happened in Charleston on the Don Holt Bridge. I was hit by a drunk driver and almost went off the bridge.”
I nodded. I could agree almost going off a bridge would be traumatic for me too. “Did he get arrested for drunk driving?”
“No, they didn’t get a chance to,” she said going on with her story. “When he came to check on me and saw that I was passed out, he thought I was dead. He thought he had killed me and so he jumped off the bridge and killed himself.”
In light of everything that has happened to her, I still asked her for a funny story. Tammy thought for a minute and then said with a laugh, “The best I can think of in such short notice is as I was coming here today a baby threw up on me.”
“What message would you like to put out there for others given what you’re facing and going through right now?”
“Well, first, I want people to know I have strong faith. I believe God has kept me here for a reason and I will get a new kidney through His mercy. I want to be a living testimony to them that God is always in control and, hopefully my story, my life, will bring people back into the faith.
“Second, I want people to be aware that there is a great need for organ donations. I don’t mean just for them, I mean for others, too. It’s not hard to do, either. You can go to the DMV whenever you get your driver’s license renewed and just add ‘organ donor’ to it.
“Third, for anyone who is interested in donating a kidney to me, call Phyllis Conner at MUSC (843-792-2300) and tell them you’re interested in being a donor for Tammy Bratcher. Phyllis is really good, too. She’ll send you an information package for you to fill out. It’s a questionnaire and then if you meet the needs from there, she’ll have you do a blood test and do a heart monitoring test on you.”
“How much will all of that cost the person who is donating though?” I know cost is everyone’s concern at this point.
“Nothing,” Tammy answered with a wave of her hand. “My insurance covers everything and they will not be charged a dime.”
Since meeting Tammy and hearing her story, I’ve come home, passed word around to others and asked them to pray for her to get a new kidney. I know that I have been saying daily prayers for her.
I leave this story with this testimony: “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:19 & 20.
On August 10, 2015 Tammy received a new kidney. She'd wants to thank everyone for their prayers and love during this trial in her life. Welcome back, Tammy!