PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Alysia Yamasaki has travelled the world, went to and graduated from college and now works for Head Start. The 28-year-old Southeast Portland resident said she’s especially grateful for one person.
“At 10 I had a life-saving kidney transplant from a non-living donor,” Alysia told KOIN 6 News. “It means the world to me. I wouldn’t be alive if it hadn’t been for an organ donor.”
But now, nearly two decades later, that kidney is failing and she needs to have another transplant. So she’s taking the time to tell her story to encourage people to become living donors.
“It’s really hard to tell someone the struggles you’re going through and, like, everyone’s going through struggles, everybody has something going on in their life,” she said. “I never wanted that to be the main focus about me.”
When she was 8, she began not feeling well. A biopsy revealed she suffers from a rare auto-immune disease, microscopic polyangitis. At 9, she began dialysis, and at 10 she had a transplant from a deceased donor.
For a long time she was feeling great and “living the life.”
But over time, the transplanted kidney function begins to deteriorate, she said.
“A kidney transplant is a treatment option. It’s not a cure,” she said. “Usually if people in their life have a kidney transplant, they most likely will need another one in their life time.”
In her case, her mom isn’t a match for a transplant and she doesn’t have brothers or sisters.
Every night while she sleeps, she does home dialysis. She put together a website to tell her story and “to try and educate people about what kidney disease is.”
Growing up with a chronic illness made her appreciate life, she said.
Each year on the anniversary of her first transplant, she takes time to acknowledge her donor and give thanks.
“They’re not here, but I like to celebrate the life that I was given,” Alysia said. “To find another, a living donor, I think that person would become part of my life as well.”