UM/Jackson Surgeons Help Daughter Give Mother Gift of Life

As Yolanda Mixon smiled broadly and joked easily with reporters on the morning of May 11, it was difficult to imagine that, just two days earlier, she had received a new kidney – donated by her daughter – at UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital. “The best Mother’s Day ever,” Mixon quipped.

A 19-year veteran of the U.S. Army, Yolanda Mixon began suffering severe aches and pains while serving as a sergeant first class some years ago. What she thought was arthritis was diagnosed as lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease that damages different parts of the body, including the kidneys. As the disease progressed, she was diagnosed with kidney failure and pulmonary fibrosis. Doctors told the single mother raising two children she would eventually need a kidney transplant.

When Lekisha Mixon learned that her mother would need a donated kidney, the 21 year-old immediately volunteered to be tested – and was the perfect match. “It was a no-brainer,” Lekisha, a forensic psychologist, now 27, told reporters. “My mom has given me a wonderful life and it was my chance to give back to her.”

The organ transplant was delayed, when in 2006, Yolanda’s condition worsened and doctors placed her on dialysis, which she endured three times a week. Over the next few years, Yolanda was in and out of the hospital – often critically ill in intensive care.

Finally, this year, George Burke III, M.D., the Joshua Miller Chair of Transplant Surgery in the Lillian Jean Kaplan Renal Transplant Program, professor of surgery and director of the Division of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation, determined Yolanda was healthy enough, and performed the surgery May 9 at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Junichiro Sageshima, M.D., assistant professor of surgery, performed the kidney removal surgery on Lekisha. Both surgeries were successful and Yolanda now has complete kidney function.

“We expect her to be just great,” said Burke, who noted that Yolanda did exactly what she was told to do to become healthy enough for the surgery. She plans to continue walking on a treadmill and riding a stationary bike daily to maintain her fitness.

Lekisha is pursuing her doctoral degree at Nova Southeastern University – a program she chose to be closer to her mom when it was time for the operation.

Yolanda, whose Army service included a stint in the Gulf War, now works as a civilian IT specialist at the U.S. Southern Command in Doral. Mother and daughter could go home in the next day or so — just in time to celebrate Mother’s Day. “It’s been a long road,” says Yolanda. “I am indebted to my daughter forever.”

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