Hailey Chapman covers sports for her high school newspaper. A budding journalist and photographer, this 19-year-old from Sanford has a bright future ahead. She doesn’t have to look far to find a good story, however, because Hailey herself was placed on the kidney transplant list at just nine years old. Learn more about Hailey’s kidney transplant and the care she received at UNC.

Hailey Inset 2Nineteen-year-old Hailey has an eye for the imperfect. Her love of photography draws her to scenes that are rustic and worn, her artistic eye capturing the beauty of old farm equipment, rusty metal, dilapidated tobacco barns and the like.

Perhaps Hailey’s attraction to such objects is tied to her experience with what her mother describes as a “worn out” kidney. Hailey went into renal failure when she was just 8 years old and had a kidney transplant at age 13.

When Hailey got sick in 2002, her mom, Tarasa, thought her daughter had a virus. When she took Hailey to the doctor, however, their world suddenly changed.

“They sent us immediately to Chapel Hill,” recalls Tarasa. “They didn't even know if she would make through the night.”

Hailey’s long-time pediatric nephrologist, Dr. Maria Ferris, then just a stranger to the family, delivered the diagnosis: Hailey had complete renal failure from a previously undiagnosed birth defect. As Tarasa explains it, “[Hailey’s] kidneys didn't grow with her. She outgrew them and wore them out.”

Hailey vertical During the four years following her diagnosis, Hailey endured 12 to 13 hours of dialysis each night and spent about five months inpatient at N.C. Children’s Hospital each year. Hailey explains the worst part of being sick was “missing school and knowing that you're different from everybody else; not being with your friends.”

Surprisingly, though, her memories aren’t so much of surgeries and IVs as they are of time spent in the playroom and enjoying the artwork and paintings.

“My biggest memory from being in the hospital was playing with the toy train and looking at the paintings,” notes Hailey.

Adds Tarasa, “She doesn't remember the surgeries, the pain; she remembers the train sets and the art carts—the fun stuff. Those are her children’s hospital memories, because UNC cares enough to entertain the kids and give them something to do besides being sick.”

Hailey was put on the transplant list when she was 9. It took four years, but the day Tarasa got the call about Hailey’s new kidney is one she’ll never forget. A “normal day” spent shopping culminated in a car ride to UNC that Tarasa describes as “probably the fastest I’ve ever gotten to the hospital.”

Today, six years post-transplant, Hailey’s health struggles are less obvious. Since the transplant, she has had surgeries to reduce chronic urinary tract infections, but with the exception of a single one-week inpatient stay in 2010 and routine follow-up care every three months and monthly lab work, Hailey’s life is completely transformed. 

“I don't have to say, ‘No, you can't do something because you are sick,’” says Tarasa. “She's been able to find out who she is without any restrictions and that is amazing.”

“I’m normally happy,” says Hailey, now a high school senior pursuing her passions for journalism and photography. “Being here and who I am.”

And although the average person can’t tell what she’s been through just by looking at her, Hailey knows that, just like the objects she photographs, there’s more to her than meets the eye.

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