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Two-time kidney transplant patient embraces challenges

IU Health University Hospital

Two-time kidney transplant patient embraces challenges

It’s been 10 months since Roxanne Johnson-Yates received a second kidney transplant. Now she looks back at a life that was uncertain at times.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, TJ Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

As she talks, Roxanne Johnson-Yates, busies herself in the kitchen preparing what she calls “a simple meal.” Whether she’s cooking a spaghetti dinner or zip-lining through the trees, Yates embraces the big and little things in life.

She doesn’t take anything for granted. This is a woman who has undergone not one, but two lifesaving kidney transplants at IU Health.

The first transplant was Aug. 6, 2010. Her donor was a woman - straight out of college who would later become her daughter-in-law. The second was on March 23, 2022.

A mother to one daughter and two sons, Yates initially went to the ER with symptoms of a strep throat. A urine test revealed high levels of protein and she was eventually diagnosed with glomerulosclerosis, a scarring of the filtering part of the kidneys. She was on dialysis for 10 years before receiving a transplant. At one point, her body began rejecting her new kidney and she was hospitalized for six weeks. When that kidney began functioning, she lived a healthy life for 11 years.

“It was a blessing because I got to see not one, but two of my grandkids born and my one daughter married. I told the kids I would not go back on dialysis, but my daughter reminded me of all that I got to experience,” said Yates. This time she was on dialysis a year when she ended up in ER.

“I had chest pain and my creatinine level was above seven. It was like the bottom fell out,” said Yates, who for the second time was in the hands of IU Health Dr. William Goggins. “He said by the end of summer I would need to be transplanted. This was March and I got the call a week later.”

A lifelong resident of Indianapolis, Yates graduated from Crispus Attucks High School. At the age of 16, she was expecting her first child. She went on to her bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2008. By 2012, with her children grown Yates went through a divorce. Three years later, she earned her master’s degree in applied science. She spent her career working in social services and now works as a family and engagement specialist for Indianapolis Public Schools.

It was during her master’s degree ceremony that she reconnected with a grade school friend, Michael Johnson. “He was getting his bachelor’s degree and jumped in line with me. We sat together and talked through the entire ceremony. We’ve been together ever since.”

“I’ve learned to not leave any stone unturned. I feel better and I need to live life to the fullest,” said Yates, who is a self-proclaimed “dare devil.” She and Johnson have gone zip-lining and are planning to go sky diving. She also enjoys attending Cathedral High School basketball games where her son is a coach and her grandson plays on the team.

“We call ourselves ‘family strong’ because we are where we are because we’ve done it together. We take vacations together, plan family game night once a month and we never miss a holiday.”

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