Bermuda native Pauleter Stevens is a vocal advocate for kidney health.

In the past two decades, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) kidney transplant recipient Pauleter Stevens has become a devoted advocate for kidney health and disease prevention. A Bermuda native who works for the island’s Department of Health, Pauleter was first diagnosed with kidney failure in 1994, after a strep throat infection spread to her kidneys.

“It all started with a sore throat,” she said. “I was pursuing a master’s in education in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1993. My doctor discovered that strep bacteria had traveled to my kidneys.”

As Pauleter is legally blind, she decided to return home to Bermuda to undergo dialysis with the support of her family close by. Dialysis is a process that removes waste and excess water from the blood when the kidneys are no longer able to. It required Stevens to be connected to a machine three days per week for three hours at a time. Suddenly, every daily task and decision required planning in advance.

Pauleter says it’s important to note that her cause of kidney disease is not common. Hypertension and diabetes are the two main causes of kidney failure, and are preventable. She wants the public, especially those in her native Bermuda, to understand the risk factors and learn how to prevent or manage chronic kidney disease. She’s sharing her experience in hopes of informing and helping as many people as she can.

In 1994, she was placed on a waiting list for a kidney transplant, for which patients wait five years on average. A kidney match was found after four years, and she was flown from Bermuda’s King Edward Memorial Hospital, an affiliate of BWH, for the transplant surgery. A strong relationship has developed between the hospitals due to BWH’s renal and transplant expertise. BWH’s Renal Division and Transplant Surgery team work together to facilitate and perform kidney transplants, under the guidance of Dr. Anil Chandraker, medical director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation in the Renal Division, and Dr. Stefan G. Tullius, chief of Transplant Surgery.

The operation was successful, but Stevens required a second transplant 11 years later, which is common among kidney transplant recipients. Earlier this summer, she received her second kidney transplant.

“She has made a complete recovery in regard to her kidney function, which is huge for her,” said Dr. Tullius, who estimates that about 10 BWH kidney transplant patients per year come from Bermuda. “We want to have an even stronger presence on the island to take care of kidney disease patients in the best way we can.”

Pauleter no longer needs dialysis, and her quality of life and life expectancy have improved. “My schedule is so much freer,” she said. “I can travel, and my diet is not as restricted. Dr. Tullius made me feel so comfortable and at ease. When I came here, I knew I didn’t have to worry, and that helped a lot.”

Pauleter also credits her BWH nephrologist Dr. Edgar Milford, and her entire care teams at BWH and King Edward Memorial.

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– Michelle C.

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