Transplant Nurse, Sherpa — Patient Pens Essay Honoring Her ‘Mountain Guide’

Jolinda Conzemius equates the ongoing care, compassion, support and guidance of Lynette Fix to that of a Sherpa guiding a hiker to the top of Mount Everest.Jolinda Conzemius has known for years that at some point, she'd need a kidney transplant. "I've known this was my fate since I was about 12 years old," she told WCCO-TV's "Life to the Max TV" back in 2014. That's because Jolinda inherited a genetic kidney disorder that has been in her family for generations.

Jolinda was diagnosed at that young age with polycystic kidney disease, which took the lives of other family members. The clusters of cysts that "kept developing" in Jolinda's kidneys had been robbing her of a normal life. "My activities are really limited," she told WCCO. "I get tired really, really quickly."

When Jolinda was 43, doctors in the Twin Cities referred her to the kidney transplant program at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. And after a co-worker offered to be Jolinda's donor, a care team led by transplant surgeon Mikel Prieto, M.D., performed a life-saving kidney transplant.

And while Jolinda says she's grateful to Dr. Prieto and everyone else at Mayo, she says there's one member of her care team who she could not have done without: transplant nurse coordinator Lynette Fix. In fact, Lynette's influence on Jolinda throughout the entire kidney transplant process was so strong that it inspired Jolinda to write an essay that she entered into the International Transplant Nurses Society's "2016 Transplant Nurses Day Essay Contest." And (spoiler alert) she won.

In her essay, Jolinda equates Lynette's ongoing care, compassion, support and guidance to that of a Sherpa guiding a hiker to the top of Mount Everest. "I was blessed to be assigned Lynette Fix, a skilled, knowledgeable guide who had walked the journey alongside many who came before me," Jolinda writes. "She was cheerful, optimistic, understanding, compassionate and balanced it well with tough love." That "tough love," Jolinda writes, was shown most often while discussing the "medical facts" around her care. "Some things were simply non-negotiable," Jolinda writes. "Everything else was open to healthy debate. Early on, she assured my husband and me that 'there were no dumb questions.'"

Throughout the ups and downs of her wait on the transplant list, Jolinda writes that Lynette was always there to offer comfort and friendship. "As the months rolled on and donor after donor was rejected, my body and spirit were tired," she writes. "Lynette was always just a phone call away, and sometimes I confess I just called for no medical reason whatsoever. I just called to hear her pep talks and reassurance. She had a way of seeing the good in everything and always left me feeling like I could hike on."

And on the day of her transplant, Jolinda writes, "no one was happier for me" than Lynette. "I know now why Sherpa make the perilous trek beside the climbers on Everest and why nurses like Lynette walk beside those of us who battle kidney failure," she writes. "I will always hold a special place in my heart for my amazing guide, Lynette. I couldn't have made it without you. Thank you for walking with me."

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