By TIFFANY RONEY
Life is a priceless gift, but for a woman from Abilene, it carries a price tag.
Julie Brierton needs a kidney transplant plus a month of out-of-state follow-up care. These costs total more than $250,000.
St. Andrew’s Parish Hall plans to host Gift of Life Spaghetti Benefit Supper to fund Brierton’s transplant and follow up care. The dinner will take place from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14.
Julie is the daughter of Mike and Theresa Brierton, the mother of Catherine Brierton and the sister of Tim Brierton and Sarah Brierton Jordan.
Mike and Theresa live in Abilene. Catherine lives with Mike and Theresa and is a freshman at Abilene High School. Tim grew up in Abilene and has since moved to Mississippi, and Sarah and Julie moved to Salina.
Julie said it is her family that is getting her through this difficult time.
“I have a lot of good support,” Julie said. “You can’t do without family.”
Life with single kidney
Doctors discovered Julie had only one functioning kidney when she was just 3 years old. Now, that kidney is failing.
Julie found out about the failing kidney almost by accident.
“I got sick and went to the doctor and found out my blood pressure was really high,” Julie said. “My doctor sent me to an endocrinologist, a kidney doctor. They did more tests and found out my kidney was going bad.”
Since then, Julie has had more than 25 surgeries. She does dialysis at home and takes medications. At this point, her only hope is a transplant.
After receiving the transplant, Julie will spend at least a month in Oklahoma to receive daily follow-up care. She has already stopped working as an office manager because of her health. Out of an already strained budget, Julie will need to not only cover half the cost of her transplant, but also the medical expenses, food, travel and lodging for her stay in Oklahoma.
Afterward, she will need a lifetime of daily anti-rejection medications, according to NFT.
From helped to helper
Julie graduated from Abilene High School in 1997.
She then attended Brown Mackie College and worked at Weis Fire & Safety Equipment Company, Inc. until her health began to hold her back.
Julie said her dream is to go back to school to become a dialysis nurse. She said she desires to help others who are facing the illness she battles.
“I just feel like it’s a calling for me because I’ve gone through pretty much everything you can go through with this disease,” Julie said. “There’s two different types of dialysis – it’s hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis – and I have done both. I’ve pretty much had every illness and sickness you can have with it so I just think my calling is to give back to people who have it. I can relate to how they are feeling, and I know how their days are going to be.”
Julie said she also wants to be healthy so she can spend active years with Catherine and the rest of her family. Catherine is now a freshman at AHS.
In addition to donating at the dinner, there are two ways to partner with the Briertons in giving Julie the gift of life. Donors can send a tax-deductable donation via check or credit card to NFT Kansas Transplant Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave., Suite 430, Memphis, Tenn., 38119, memo: “In honor of Julie Brierton.” Alternatively, donors can make a secure online donation at www.transplants.org.
Additionally, Julie said people can give of themselves to the kidney cause by donating one of their own organs.
“Anybody can get tested to donate a kidney,” Julie said. “You don’t have to donate to just anybody. You could always go in and get tested for somebody who’s waiting. My chances are (that) I’m going to have to wait 2-3 years if I don’t have someone who can be a living donor to me. If I have a living donor, I can get it right away.”
Julie is one of 80,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list, according to the Living Kidney Donor Network.
“There are lots of people waiting, so if people feel like they can live without one and give, that’s one of the best gifts you can give a person,” Julie said. “Just get tested.”