The Tamisha Martin Story
This week's blog story comes from beloved WCCS volleyball coach, Tamisha Martin. We wanted Tamisha to share with our WCCS families in her own words how she has witnessed God work in her life through some difficult health struggles. Tamisha continues to be an inspiration to our student athletes. We are blessed to have her serving in our school community!
As a soldier in God’s army, you never go to war unless you're fully equipped. God not only put fight in my heart, but He gave me passion. At a young age, my dad gave me a Bible with the scripture “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) written in the cover - words I have followed my whole life.
Life has never been easy for me, since the day I was born. In Stugart, Germany, I was born prematurely at 6 months weighing 3 pounds. Who knew that was just the start of my fight. From there, I went through ankle surgery that had me in a cast for 6 months, a broken hand, and 2 torn ACLs. You would think that would be enough for one person, but God had other plans. Through my adolescence, I had many setbacks, but none like what I was about to experience.
"God had other plans."
In September 2007, I went from a 20 year old Winthrop volleyball player, to a chemotherapy patient. While getting pre-season physicals, I was told my sediment rate was high, meaning I had inflammation in my body. Doctors tested me weekly but could not discover the reason. I didn't feel well and was exhausted, but because I LOVED volleyball, I tried to play through it all. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I woke up for a 6:00 AM practice and I couldn't move anything except for my eyes.
I tried to continue to play, but once my family saw me, they took me to the ER. I was in the hospital two weeks and was diagnosed with Lupus Nephritis. I had 80% kidney function. I had no clue what Lupus was and later learned that Lupus is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks your organs. My Lupus was attacking my kidneys. It didn’t register how serious this was until the doctors told me I would be starting Chemotherapy ten days later.
My first round of Chemotherapy was a success, and I was finally feeling normal again. I made a small attempt at spring season volleyball, but after two months, I started gaining almost a pound of water a day. My nephrologist and rheumatologist could not figure out what was wrong bringing me back to square one. For two months I suffered from edema and gained 60 pounds of water. My entire body was stretched to its limits, and I was drowning in my own body. When I went back to the hospital, I had 5 liters of fluid drained from my body and 2 liters drained from my lungs. My kidney function was now down to 35%.
My mom contacted the Lupus Foundation of America, and we found a Lupus Specialist in Wilmington, NC. My Lupus Specialist started me back on another 5 month cycle of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy worked again, and my specialist found the right medicine combination for me. Over the next two years, I was doing great, and I was doing everything I loved again!
At 23, I was removed from my dad's insurance and left to figure out how to pay for thousands of dollars in medicines. I went 2 years with minimal medicine and no visits to my specialist, but my Lupus was in remission. Unfortunately, my kidney function caused my blood pressure to rise. I was back in the hospital and my kidneys were now at 17% function. It was the first time I heard about dialysis. My doctors told me eventually I would need to start dialysis as my function declines. It was hard to believe because I felt fine. I knew in order to get a transplant I had to start dialysis, but I asked my doctors to hold off until I felt bad. That was June of 2013.
A month later, I decided to coach volleyball at WCCS. We went on to win a state championship my first season. During the season, I was prepping to start dialysis. When the season was over, I went from the biggest high, to my lowest of lows. Two weeks later, I started dialysis.
"When the season was over, I went from the biggest high, to my lowest of lows."
Dialysis was so foreign to me. I didn’t know what I was in for. It was harder than anything I had been through so far. Dialysis is when you are connected with two huge needles that take your blood through a machine. The machine filters the toxins out of your body that the kidneys are no longer able to filter. I went 3 days a week for 4 hours. I was left with two options, dialysis the rest of my life or a kidney transplant. Because I wanted off dialysis, I started the quest for a kidney.
Outside of my kidney failure, I was very healthy, so getting listed for transplant was easy for me. Due to blood type or heath concerns, my mother, father, and sister were unable to donate. This absolutely crushed me to a lower point that I didn't know existed. It was a year and a half later and I was back at point A. My blood type is type O, the hardest to find donors. Through many prayers, God reminded me to stay steadfast in my beliefs and continued to use my blessings to benefit others. I continued to coach volleyball and work at a bakery. As exhausted as I was, I knew I needed volleyball and cake to bring joy in my life when depression was on my tail. Another year past, more family members tested, and still no one passed.
At one of my appointments, a doctor told me a story about a husband that walked the streets for days with a sign saying that his wife needed a kidney. A random stranger saw him and decided to give his wife a kidney. This story inspired me, so I went to Facebook. I shared my story on Facebook and had many friends tell me they wanted to get tested. I was hopeful again!
I received a Facebook message from a high school friend, Megan, who said she loved the person I was, and God put it on her heart to help me. I had not talked to her in 10 years, so I wasn't expecting her to follow through. Yet, weeks later she passed preliminary screening. Because the testing process is long, I did not get my hopes up. I was simply honored that she would even do this for me. I learned the true meaning of God’s love. Megan went through the next year getting tested, but we still had not heard anything. On Christmas Eve 2016, I walked to my mother's door and to my surprise Megan answered it. As I was already shocked, she exclaimed, “We have a date!” I felt those words in my soul! I felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. I immediately fell to my knees in tears and thanked God.
"I learned the true meaning of God's love."
My transplant surgery date was March 2nd, 2017. I woke from surgery and Megan's kidney was working immediately! It was God's work in its truest form.
Throughout my 10 years dealing with Lupus there are so many things that have happened to me that are unexplainable. To me, it was ALL GOD. There are people that go through their whole life and never find a passion. I was blessed to have many! With everything that I have gone through, I wouldn’t have made it through without God, my family, friends, WCCS volleyball and cake.
I share my story in hopes that it will inspire others fighting. Always treat others with love, because you never know 10 years later that person can save your life!