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Saturday, June 10, 2023

A Stranger, Living Donor Gives a Mother a New Lease on Life Through Donated Kidney

Akiba Robinson finds fulfillment in pursuing her acting passion on a part-time basis. When she is not lending her talents behind the scenes or on-screen, her full-time career is working as a patent examiner. The Maryland and New York resident who is a SAG member said that she has acted locally and in other places.

“‘Dear Best Friend’ was one of the last movies that I filmed in Miami,” Robinson said. “I audition for a lot of TV shows.”

Robinson noted that she has been acting on and off all her life, but 2015 was a milestone for her. After the quality of her life improved, she became more serious about something that she loved to do. Receiving a kidney transplant in 2015 was the spark that allowed her to grab her dream more consistently.

“Before that, it was a lot of feeling bad, being on dialysis and not having the time to really pursue my passion. Once I got that kidney in 2015, I saw it as a new lease on life,” Robinson said.

The actress explained that lupus caused her kidney issue.

According to the CDC, lupus is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks itself. It cannot distinguish “the difference between healthy tissue and foreign invaders.” Bacteria and viruses are two examples.

Robison added that she was diagnosed with lupus when she was 17 years old.

“My own body was eating away at my kidneys,” Robinson said.

Robison said that lupus initially attacked her heart and lungs. She also recalls her legs swelling up like balloons from kidney problems. She began to feel tired and could not always get up to walk. Robinson recalls crawling to the bathroom.

When the time arrived for her to get on a list for a kidney donation, she waited five years. Robinson was a single mother in her 30s who juggled dialysis treatment, taking care of her children and working. She explained that dialysis was putting her body through a great deal of wear and tear.

Hemodialysis removes waste products from the blood by use of a machine when a person’s kidneys are not functioning normally, but peritoneal dialysis is typically an at-home treatment for kidney failure that sends a cleansing liquid through the abdomen by a tube. Robinson endured both types of dialysis treatments. She stated that peritoneal dialysis worked better for her.

“I did that for about four years,” Robison added.

Robinson ultimately took matters into her own hands by searching for her own kidney donor.

“I was still on the waiting list and I just couldn’t take it. I started doing research on my own about people who wanted to donate their kidney. I got on a site called matchingdonors.com. After about a year of emailing back and forth, just trying to find somebody that may be my matching blood type, I got a couple of people that reached back out to me. One person in particular was willing to go through all of the testing. So, once she did that, she wound up being a match and eventually she donated a kidney to me,” Robinson said.” A total stranger.”

Sara Fleming stepped up to help Robinson. Fleming resides in Missouri. She confirmed that she and Robinson became acquainted through the donor website. It allows people in need of transplant surgery a way to search for living organ donors.

Sara Fleming (left) donated a kidney to Akiba Robinson (right).
Photo courtesy of Sara Fleming and Akiba Robinson 

“I was actually contacted by over 100 people looking for a kidney,” Fleming said.

She added how difficult it was to read through all these bios and messages, then pick a recipient. Fleming eventually flew to D.C. for kidney transplant surgery. The women met the day before the operation.

“When I first got my [driver’s]  license, I signed up to be a donor,” she added, mentioning that she grew up in the church participating in community endeavors. “It just felt normal and natural to be willing to give back.”

Robinson said that she wants to take care of the kidney since she was positively impacted by Fleming’s generosity.

“I feel like I gained a sister and she was generous enough to donate to me,” Robinson said. “Without a kidney you can’t live, and if you’re on dialysis, you have no quality of life. So, for somebody to be generous enough to donate a kidney, they’re basically like angels in this world to me.”

Visit www.instagram.com/akibarobinsonactress to learn more about Robinson’s acting. and https://registerme.org/faq.aspx to learn more about joining the organ, eye and tissue donor movement through Maryland’s Donor Registry.

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