MIAMI – Shortly after taking her first job out of law school back in 1997, Tiffani Lee’s health began to suffer.
“Immediately I started having signs of an autoimmune disorder,” Lee said.
By 2009 she was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lupus.
“Systemic lupus can attack your heart, can attack your brain, it can attack your lungs. In my case it chose my kidneys,” she said.
Flare-ups over the years repeatedly landed her in the hospital with kidney failure that required sessions of dialysis.
“It was always like failure, then bouncing back, but it never bounded back to 50-recent, it was like bounding back to 30-percent, which is really not life-sustaining,” Lee said.
Just as the pandemic hit South Florida in early March, she was put on the transplant list.
“I wanted a live donor because you have a better success rate with a live donor but they said ‘you’re not going to get a live donor because we’re not doing elective surgeries, but if we think there’s a deceased donor that would be a good match for you we will call you in’,” Lee said.
The call came May 9th at 4:50 in the morning.
“And I’ll tell you two weeks before it happened I was sitting in my apartment and I was thinking ‘this is the perfect time to get a kidney because hospitals are empty, nobody’s working, I have a 90 day recovery, nobody will be looking for me, this is perfect,’” she recalled.
Though being alone in the hospital wasn’t easy, Lee said the timing of her life-saving transplant was an answered prayer.
“It’s been great. The kidney started working in two days. I was home two days later. I’ve had no pain. So for me, it’s like a miracle in the midst of a pandemic, that’s what I call it. I’m so very, very excited and very thankful,” she said.
Experts say one of the most common safety measures, which is banning visitors, including close family members, is a big reason many people are fearful of going to the hospital, even in the face of life-threatening conditions.