If you play basketball for a prestigious program like the University of Southern California (USC) or professionally in China and Europe, it’s a pretty good bet you are an athlete at the top of your game.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is just not something that should rear its ugly head if your life is about proper nutrition, consistent exercise, and high-level competition.
Tiffany Archibald would beg to differ.
Tiffany is living proof that being an elite-level athlete does not protect you from CKD.
She is also living proof that organ donations save lives—as hers has been saved twice by both her mother and her husband, Beau.
“Donors are God’s gift walking the planet,” says Tiffany, a doctoral candidate and researcher. She also runs a Dallas-area nonprofit known as Community Kidney Care.
In her work providing education and resources to CKD patients, Tiffany always reminds organ donors of how great they are.
“I tell organ donors, ‘You saved a life,’” says Tiffany. “Never take for granted the gift of life they gave us.”
Twenty years ago, she was a member of the USC women’s basketball team. It was during that time that she discovered she was in the earliest stages of CKD.
“I was at USC going into my senior year and the basketball team was doing its pre-season testing,” says Tiffany. “My urine test showed I had a lot of protein in my urine. So, I went to USC Medical and that is where I got my first kidney biopsy.”
She discovered she had 95% kidney function and high blood pressure. So, she was put on blood pressure medications, played her senior year at USC, and then played professionally in China, Spain, and Italy after college.
When Tiffany returned to the United States, she had her sights set on playing in the WNBA. In 2004, however, she went to get a corn removed from her toe. It was during this simple procedure that she discovered she had CKD.
“I went in for this corn-removal procedure and the next thing you know all these doctors and nurses start coming into my room, and they told me, ‘Did you know that your kidneys are functioning at 26%?’”
Tiffany started seeing a nephrologist and held on to that 26% kidney function for about a year. Then it dropped to 22%. That is when she started going to more appointments and discussing different options.
“I remember going to one appointment and checking in at the desk and the nurse took me to a room and started playing this video,” says Tiffany. “When the video began, it was called ‘Your Life on Dialysis.’”
She said she got through only a few minutes of the video before she grabbed her bag and left.
“The nurse tried to stop me and asked, ‘Where are you going?’ So, I just told her, ‘This is not me. I will not be doing dialysis.’”
Tiffany immediately called her mom, who told Tiffany, “Let me see what I can do.”
Two weeks after walking out on that “Your Life on Dialysis” video, her mom donated a kidney to her.
Her first question after the transplant surgery was, “When can I get back to working out?”
Tiffany said she started out slowly, going on the recumbent bike two weeks after her surgery, and then gradually moving to the treadmill.
Eventually, she started doing workouts with former teammates who were playing for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA.
Eight years later, Tiffany was living a healthy lifestyle, and married to Beau Archibald, a standout college basketball player himself.
One day, she went to visit her nephrologist who looked at her chart and was curious why Tiffany was never put on a steroid after her transplant.
She also discovered that her creatinine was starting to slowly increase.
The day after having her lab work done, Tiffany was in Connecticut attending a training for work. During the training, she had her phone powered down, and when there was a break, she went to check her phone and saw that she missed 10 missed calls from the nurses at her doctor’s office.
“They told me, ‘Tiffany, you need to get to the hospital, and we need to put you on steroids so that we can keep you from losing your kidney.’”
Tiffany called Beau, who was coaching professional basketball in China. It was the middle of his team’s basketball season, but he immediately hopped on a plane, and flew 36 hours back to Connecticut.
Beau decided to get tested to see if he would be a match for Tiffany, and—through a stroke of luck—he was.
“I’m black and Beau is Caucasian, but he got tested anyways and we found out that our tissue typing and everything that you needed to go into a transplant were matching,” says Tiffany. “As if we were blood-born siblings.”
Eight days later, on June 21, 2013, Beau donated his kidney to Tiffany.
More than seven years later, Tiffany is doing well.
She still loves to exercise and has gotten her personal trainer certification, and she is also a certified holistic health coach.
This past August, her creatinine was going up, so her care team did an ultrasound. Then she had a sonagram. Then they did a glofil (GFR) test to measure the Glomerular Filtration Rate of her kidney. She also did three 24-hour urine tests.
“I had had all of those tests and they just couldn’t figure out what was causing my creatinine to go up,” says Tiffany. “So, I got a biopsy done and it was the worst experience ever. They put me completely under for 3-4 hours and they went in 4 or 5 times and ended up not getting any of the kidney. So, I went through that horrific experience only to get inconclusive results.”
That was when Tiffany first discovered AlloSure®.
“I was told there was this awesome new test for people like me,” says Tiffany, who now lives in the Dallas Texas area. “Dallas Transplant Institute has the AlloSure test, so I went in not knowing what to expect.”
Tiffany went in and had her blood work done for her regular lab. The phlebotomist then said, “Okay. You’re all done.”
“I was like, ‘Where do I go to get the AlloSure test” and she was said, ‘I did it already’ and I was like, ‘Wait … It’s a blood test!’”
Tiffany got her AlloSure results back and found that her transplanted kidney was not under any danger of being rejected.
“AlloSure literally gave me a piece of mind and took away my stress,” says Tiffany.
Tiffany also uses the AlloCare™ app, which she calls a serious upgrade from always going into the notes section of her iPhone every time she took a blood pressure reading.
“I use it for my water intake and my weight, and I loaded my medications in it,” says Tiffany. “Overall, I think AlloCare is better than anything. It just makes managing your post-transplant life easier.”
For more information on AlloSure, click here.
Tiffany is no longer a Division-1 basketball star. However, all these years later and after two kidney transplants, she is bringing her best game ever when it comes to her health and wellness.
Tiffany wants to tell all organ transplant recipients that they are warriors. She also wants them to understand that even when you don’t feel the greatest, you always must prioritize and realize the blessing that you have.
We—as transplant recipients – have been blessed with the opportunity to have someone who is almost a perfect match give us that opportunity to live a fulfilling life,” says Tiffany. “So, I encourage all transplant recipients to do what they can to advocate, because you all have a story, and you should never underestimate the impact of your story.”
To organ donors everywhere, Tiffany wants to simply thank them for saving a life. Both her mom and her husband have saved hers, and no matter how much her mom and husband annoy her on occasion, she always remembers that they gave her life.
“They helped me out” says Tiffany. “They hooked a girl up.”