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Woman Recovering from Third Transplant

Tempo Edwards was UCLA's 5,000th kidney transplant

Posted: February 27, 2008 2:07 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Tempo Edwards has survived a number of kidney problems, having undergone 59 surgeries and most recently, a third transplant.

 
Sitting on a couch in her slippers at her Canyon Country home Tuesday, Tempo Edwards is animated, smiling and almost giddy.

Recovering from another kidney transplant, the 39-year-old is hoping that the third time's a charm.
She got the phone call at 10:45 p.m. on a Wednesday night and Edwards jumped up to answer the phone.
Doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center said she was next on the list to receive a kidney from a 42-year-old Philadelphia woman who died from a brain aneurysm.

Two days later - on Jan. 25 - Edwards was in surgery.

For UCLA, the seven-hour surgery marked its 5,000th kidney transplant. For Edwards, it was her third transplant and 59th kidney surgery.

"This is nothing new to me," Edwards said. "It has been a rough road."

Edwards got the phone call just in time. If she had lived any longer with a kidney that was only operating at 14 percent functionality, she would have had to once again resort to dialysis treatments.

This time, doctors would have implanted a permanent plastic tube into her neck since her arm veins were no longer an option.

"My veins are shot. These don't even work anymore," she said as she pointed to the inside of her left arm.
Her kidneys failed when she was eight years old due to a birth defect. When she was 16, her kidneys "blew up," she said.

She was went on dialysis and doctors wanted to put her on the transplant list, but she refused. Just a year and a half away from graduating from Canyon High School, she didn't want to be bedridden from a kidney transplant.

Just after graduation in 1986, she received the new kidney.

The kidney lasted more than eight years, which was longer than her doctors expected. She was placed on the list when her kidney functionality dropped to 20 percent. She went through hemodialysis, which lasted all day, three days per week.

"It drains the heck out of you. It really does," she said.

In 1996, she was on vacation in Las Vegas when she got a call from UCLA saying a kidney had become available and she was next on the list. The only catch was that she had to be at the hospital the next morning or the kidney would go to the next one down on the list. She and her family rushed to Los Angeles. If she had arrived five minutes later, she would have missed out, she said.

"The kidney is sitting in an ice chest alive. It has to get to a warm body or else it's going to die," she said.
Edwards also underwent two brain surgeries in 2002 for epilepsy that was triggered by her kidney failure as a child.

Growing up, she said she had strong parents who refused to let her condition hamper her lifestyle.
Her doctors told her she couldn't travel with a dialysis machine, but her parents modified the machine and the family traveled across the country.

She continues to go on cruises to see the world.

Her secret is a positive attitude, she said.

|"You're on the list and you just take it day by day," she said. "Time flies. They'll call."

Her fiancé Joseph Huml said, "She doesn't let anything get her down."

Edwards now spends her time volunteering for local organizations and gives lectures at seminars to inspire those with similar medical conditions.

As a result of her latest surgery, she now has 90 percent functionality in her kidney.

"My surgeon said, 'You can keep this one for a long time,'" she said. "I just came back from the clinic today. I got the thumbs up and that's all that matters."

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