After three years on the transplant list, KS Rep. Gail Finney finally received the call she had been waiting for on Monday, Jan. 3. There was a kidney match and she just had hours to get to Kansas City for the transplant.
“My New Year’s gift was a kidney,” said Finney, and there wasn’t any gift she wanted more.
If you didn’t know Finney was on the transplant list, you’re not alone. While she didn’t keep it a secret, she didn’t blast her health issues on social media either.
If you looked at her, you probably never thought she was ill. The petite, 50-something, was always out and energetically working in the community.
Finney says her health care issues began in 2004 with complications from Lupus, an autoimmune disease, which means that your immune system — the body system that usually fights infections — attacks healthy tissue instead. Lupus attacked Finney’s kidneys.
She moved back to Wichita from Dallas to be near family and friends and began dialysis. She was on dialysis for about a year when her doctor suggested an innovative chemotherapy treatment. Almost miraculously, her lupus went into remission.
“They thought I would only be in remission for four or five years at the most,” said Finney. So when she was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 2008, she never thought she’d feel healthy enough to serve 13 years.
She remained relatively healthy until 2018. Finney blames the change on overextending herself on some particularly stressful issues in the community. In December of that year, she had a heart attack, her kidney capacity began diminishing again and she was put on the transplant list. The past three years she’s been in a battle to keep up her kidney function while waiting for a kidney match.
A few weeks ago, her kidney function dropped to almost 10%, but she was able to get it back up a few points, staving off a return to dialysis. For Finney, this kidney match came just in the nick of time.
From all indications, Finney says the transplant is a huge success. She’ll have to stay in Kansas City for two weeks of follow-up checkups. After that, she’ll recuperate in Wichita for 10 weeks.
It’s a schedule that will have her missing a great deal of this year’s legislative session. While she won’t be able to handle the daily rigors of the session, she says she committed to keeping up with and being heard on the issues, particularly those that are of most importance to her constituents.
When needed on close issues, Finney says she’ll make the trip to Topeka to cast her vote.
What she’s most excited about is the additional energy she’ll have with her new kidney to fight for the interests of her constituents.
“If you thought I had energy before,” said Finney, “wait till you see me with this kidney upgrade.”