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For many students, August means starting a new chapter. For JoJo, it meant winning a battle she has fought her whole life.
Andrexia “JoJo” McBride, a senior multimedia journalism major from Elba, received a double organ transplant Aug. 31.
McBride, now 24, was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 6. In 2011, she was diagnosed with Guillian-Barré syndrome.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder in which a person’s own immune system damages their nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.”
GBS caused McBride to be hospitalized, spending seven of her nine months on a ventilator. During this time, she also suffered full-body paralysis.
In 2013, about a year after being released from the hospital, McBride learned that her kidneys were failing. They were functioning at 24 percent; most kidneys function at 80 to 100 percent.
It was not until October of last year that McBride was placed on a kidney transplant list because of their continued failure. Her kidney function fell to 21 percent.
McBride went through evaluation and testing.
“They (the doctors) check all your levels, they talk about your lifestyle,” McBride said. “You just go through a whole day’s worth of testing and questions. You talk to a lot of doctors, oncologists and social workers.”
McBride’s doctor recommended that a kidney and pancreas transplant be arranged at the same time because of her diabetes. She was on the transplant list for 10 months, which is rare, according to McBride, because the average wait time is a year and a half.
The procedure took place at the UAB Hospital in Birmingham.
McBride said her recovery has been great.
“After spending the majority of my life being sick, I felt better immediately after surgery besides being in obvious pain from surgery,” she said.
McBride said she did encounter a minor setback. On Monday, Sept. 12, she had to return to the hospital because of a spike in her white blood cell count.
She said doctors became worried that there would be an infection, but nothing was found.
“My team of doctors are very particular and are very aggressive in making sure that everything is good before they send me back home,” McBride said.
McBride said that she has seen tremendous support from family, friends, and Troy University faculty and staff.
“My friends, family and boyfriend call me, text me and check in on me constantly,” McBride said. “It feels good to have that support system, especially with a process that is emotional from start to finish and beyond.”
According to Laura Erin Miller, McBride’s co-worker at Santa Fe Cattle Co. restaurant, McBride is a “great friend.”
“JoJo is a light wherever she goes,” Miller said. “She’s always smiling and willing to listen and goof around with you. She’s an insanely strong person and reminds me not to sweat the small stuff and to just live. She’s an amazing person.”
Robbyn Taylor, a lecturer in Troy University’s Hall School of Journalism and Communication, said McBride dealt with her illness well and still managed to stay on top of her studies.
“JoJo is a great example of a student who embodies what it is to be a Trojan warrior,” Taylor said. “She rarely misses a class because her education is very important to her; she volunteers outside the classroom and gives of her time and talent freely. She’s kind, inquisitive and she strives to be a better learner and person. I couldn’t ask for a better student.”
“She’d leave doctors’ appointments and comes back to campus,” Taylor said. “She wore medical masks when her immune system might not be as tough as she’d like. She’s an exceptional young woman.”
According to Taylor, McBride was one of her first students at Troy.
“When she told me about what she was going through, I expected her to need to be out of class, or for her to not be able to participate in classroom activities as much,” Taylor said. “She totally shattered those expectations.”
“When I got word that JoJo had been matched and was waiting on surgery, I couldn’t help but tear up,” she said. “I can’t think of a young woman more deserving of a chance at a long, healthy life.”
Taylor said that she visited McBride after the surgery and “she looked wonderful.”
“It was so nice to see her smile and laugh,” Taylor said. “We just need her to get well so she can come back to Troy. Her school family misses her.”
McBride is recovering in Elba with her family. She plans to return to the University as a full-time student in January 2017.