When Anne Arno was just 17 years old, her family physician delivered devastating news. She had polycystic kidney disease, and it was life-threatening. Growing up in rural Virginia in the 1960s, Anne kept her diagnosis a secret for over a decade. She had witnessed the debilitating effects of kidney disease on her father and uncle, and she was determined to avoid both the stigma associated with the illness and the potential impact on her ability to find employment. Anne treated her body with care, meticulously following doctor’s orders with medicines, eating healthy foods, and even pursuing a career in nutrition with the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
It wasn’t until Anne turned 60 that her body started to shut down. Repeat UTIs, kidney infections, and bouts of sepsis led Anne’s nephrologist to suggest putting her on a kidney transplant list. From 2019 to 2021, Anne patiently waited for a kidney. When years of being on one transplant list proved futile, Anne was added to the list at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, NC. Anne desperately needed a kidney; dialysis could only extend her life for so long.
On November 17, 2021, Anne received a life-changing phone call—she was told that the National Kidney Registry had a healthy kidney and that she needed to be at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Hospital within six hours. Anne lived three hours away, with her 88-year-old mother, Bernice. Anne and Bernice hastily threw together a few suitcases and made their way to Winston-Salem.
The transplant surgery was a success. Anne’s new kidney saved her life.
Anne’s healthcare team referred her to the SECU Family House so she could stay close to the hospital for regular monitoring during her recovery. Five days after her surgery, Anne “walked through the doors of the SECU Family House and it was like I was home. Everybody welcomed me.”
Anne and Bernice spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year holidays at the Family House, surrounded by the love and care of staff members and community volunteers who provided nourishing meals and encouragement. Thanks to the Family House, Anne was able to fully focus on her recovery and healing. Being near the hospital, Anne had easy access to her daily follow-up visits. Knowing her mother was in a safe, nurturing environment during her appointments, she could relax. Anne made a remarkable recovery with no complications.
“Without the Family House,” Anne says, “it would have been very difficult. We would have been on the road or in a motel with no support. Because of their help, I’ve been blessed beyond measure.” Anne is forever grateful for her surgeon, Dr. Colleen Jay, her entire care team, and the Family House.
She says, “I got a miracle, I know I did.”