Relating to transplant patients comes naturally for SizemoreJan. 27, 2022, 9:23 AM
by Matt Batcheldor
When Kanisha Sizemore, CPhT, helps transplant patients with their medications, she knows what they’re going through.
Sizemore, a pharmacy technician in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Transplant Pharmacy, celebrated the 18th anniversary of her own kidney and pancreas transplant in October 2021. The patients she serves find comfort in hearing her story.
“When I speak with our transplant patients, we relate in that way. I understand pretty much what they’re going through, what they’re dealing with, medications that they may be on and how it made me feel, mentally on a personal level,” she said. “I share what I’ve experienced with them, what I deal with. Let them know, ‘you’re not alone.’”
Sizemore, who was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, was diagnosed with diabetes at age 2. Her mother, Martha, and father, James, also had diabetes. Her childhood was measured in doses of insulin throughout the day and scheduled meals and snacks to keep her blood sugar levels under control. She managed it pretty well until she got to college, when, like many young people, she decided to eat whatever she liked without proper blood glucose management.
She moved back to her hometown in 2002 to help her mom take care of her father, who was starting to show signs of kidney failure. Little did she know that, within months, she would be diagnosed with kidney failure, too. She started dialysis a month before her father. She would drive her parents to the clinic, and her mother would watch over the two of them as they received dialysis four hours per day, three days a week.
“It was scary not knowing what my life outcome would be,” Sizemore recalled. “And the first thing that I was worried about, I mean, I cried because the first thing that crossed my mind was, ‘OK, what if I get married and I want kids. I can’t have kids.’ That was one of the very first things that I thought about, honestly. And it was scary because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. But I had a praying family and an amazing church family who prayed daily for me. My pastor came by my house and prayed with me. I had family who were also willing to donate to me if it came to that.”
She began the workup for a kidney transplant at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. Doctors told her that due to her O-positive blood type, it may be up to four and a half years before she received one. But just four days after she joined the transplant list, they said a kidney and pancreas were available for her if she wanted them.
“I said, ‘absolutely.’ I was kind of in shock. My mom was in shock. Everything happened so fast.”
She remembers being shown her new kidney in the cooler as it was transported in, just before her transplant. When she woke up a couple of days later, it was done.
Sizemore had to have a second surgery when one of her intestines was found to be kinked behind her new kidney, making her unable to eat. After a week in the hospital, she was released.
“I could tell the difference,” she said. “I wasn’t used to my blood sugars being normal. That, to me, was very weird, but a blessing.”
Sizemore settled into a more normal life. She got married and, five years after her transplant, had identical twins — Makai and Makarios — who are now 12. Her parents have since passed away.
She moved to Nashville and transferred to a local Walgreen’s where she worked as a pharmacy technician. A pharmacist that she worked with helped her find a job at Vanderbilt, where she started in November 2017.
In her role, Sizemore helps patients who have had transplants of all kinds, including kidney transplants, keep up with the medications they’re on and stay up to date with refills. She answers some questions and keeps patients in compliance with their medication regimens.
She handles the prescriptions that come in for new meds they may be starting and setting those up to get shipped out to the patient, along with any delivery issues. She is also there for moral support because she understands.
“I enjoy helping others,” she said. “Being a transplant recipient is a blessing, but it is also life changing in several ways. So, I’m able to help our patients on another level. Because you don’t know. Sometimes people may mentally be exhausted or mentally just overwhelmed.
“I am able to help and possibly give them some perspective and hopefully give them that hope and let them know everything is going to be OK. If sharing my story will help someone, then I will share it a million times over.”