Kid Captain Brandi Yates underwent historic surgery


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Uncertainty began to creep in as a helicopter took off early on the October 2006 morning. Kathy Yates watched from the ground as her then-7-year old daughter Brandi began the emergency trip to Iowa City from Waterloo, just as her husband and daughters pulled into the parking lot. What had started as a stubborn nosebleed the night before was now replaced with the frantic feeling of unknown.

“I was scared because we really didn’t know what was going on until we got to Iowa City,” Brandi’s father, Jim Yates, said. “[Her problem] crept up slowly, and that’s when it hit.”

Brandi, now 14, was later diagnosed with kidney failure. After weeks in intensive care followed by months of dialysis, Brandi’s Yates’s aunt Janet Klatt offered one of her kidneys for a transplant in June 2007.

However, while at church camp in July 2009, Brandi’s blood pressure went up. Her kidney was failing for the second time.

“It was scary as they ran ultrasounds, CAT scans, X-rays, and a bunch of other tests I can’t even remember,” Kathy Yates said. “Not knowing what happened was the scariest part, with all the technology we had and not being able to pinpoint the problem.”

The following weekend, during a tissue biopsy, doctors discovered Brandi suffered from Atypical HUS — a rare genetic kidney disease.

However, doctors at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics were determined to conduct another transplant. They developed a protocol over six months, which included getting special permission to use a new drug before Food Drug Administration approval. The subsequent surgery was the first of its kind in North America, in October 2010.

“We [currently] see no signs of the return of Atypical HUS, and she has done beautifully,” said Carla Nester, a UI assistant professor of nephrology, on Wednesday. “It was a bit of a hardship to lose a native kidney, and it took a leap of faith to believe in us to create the protocol to allow us to do it again.”

Brandi was selected to be the Kid Captain for this week’s upcoming game against Central Michigan after Nester and other doctors nominated her. Kid Captains are chosen for each of the Hawkeye football team’s home and away games.

“I’m honored because I was picked over 400 other kids whose stories were much more better than mine,” Brandi said. She was anxious, excited, and nervous, she said, because this will be her first football game besides the hometown ones.

Doctors and hospital staff feel Brandi is an “inspiration,” and her energy helps brighten the infusion-wing of the hospital.

“She is so positive and fun and brings life to the infusion area,” UIHC nurse Monica Keleher said. “We’re so excited that she can be recognized for being a trouper, and we’re blessed to see her so often. She brightens my day, and brings a smile to my face.”

Brandi and Katy Yates feel closer to the doctors and staff after their biweekly trips to the hospital. The frequent trips are a side effect of the drug, Solaris, which becomes less effective over time.

“We call all the doctors by their first names,” Kathy Yates said. “We have become a family.”
Brandi agreed.

“They’re like my friends, because I can talk to them about them about anything,” she said.

Currently, no cure exists for Atypical HUS, meaning Brandi will have to continue to receive treatments every two weeks, but her trips “don’t bother her at all.” Brandi’s attitude throughout the process has stood out both to doctors and her family.

“She has been a trouper through the whole thing,” Kathy Yates said “If it had to be one of the three girls to get the condition, it had to be Brandi. She goes with the flow and does what she has to.”

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