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Blinn-Sealy student overcomes kidney failure en route to her associate degree

Robbie Gay received a life-saving new kidney on Sept. 27, 2016

April 25, 2017

Seven years ago, Robbie Gay began to feel sharp pains in her abdomen each time that she ate. After several visits, doctors diagnosed her with polycystic disease and told her that her kidneys were shutting down.

Not only would she require dialysis, but Gay’s career as a veterinary technician was over – dialysis weakens the immune system, and working around animals presented a hazard.

Forced to leave her job, Gay had no idea how she would pay the bills until her 10-year-old daughter suggested that she return to school.

“When I learned that I needed to go on disability for the dialysis and that I was no longer able to work the job that I loved, I just felt lost,” Gay said. “Of course, when returning to school was brought up everything was running through my head about being too old.”

The 45-year-old Gay had to balance schoolwork with dialysis treatments that could last up to 11 hours, all while waiting on an organ donor list for five years. Selecting Blinn-Sealy turned out to be just the amount of personal attention she needed to get through school.

“All the staff and students really helped me with my coursework when I started to feel sick,” Gay said. “At one point, I was hospitalized for a month and was still able keep up with my coursework because of the help I received.”

With 133 students enrolled last Fall, Blinn-Sealy’s faculty and staff get to know students well. The close-knit community could not help but notice Gay and her determination to come to class, even when she struggled with her health.

“Some days she would barely make it through the door, but she always had a good attitude,” said Lisa Caton, Sealy Campus Director. “She is an inspiration for everyone.”

Gay admitted that the prospect of returning to school more than 20 years after graduating from high school was frightening.

“I was just hoping to see what classes were like. Everyone was welcoming and the fear went away quickly,” Gay said. “School is more challenging as an older person because I felt like I had forgotten a lot since high school.”

While Gay was working toward her degree and fighting kidney failure with dialysis, she received a phone call on Sept. 27, 2016, that changed her life.

“I received the phone call at 6:50 a.m. and my doctor asked me if I was ready for a new kidney,” Gay said. “There was a live donor who was a match.”

Following the kidney transplant, Gay no longer had to sit through time-consuming dialysis. Soon after the surgery, she began feeling much better, though she will have to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life. The anti-rejection medication weakens her immune system, so she remains careful to regularly wash her hands and avoid places that may have sick people.

While Gay’s experience at Blinn certainly has not been easy, it has been rewarding.

“I always tell my daughter that education is one thing that cannot be taken away from you,” Gay said.

Blinn-Sealy offers a variety of academic transfer, workforce training and continuing education classes to fit the need of any student. For information on course offerings and student registration, visit www.blinn.edu/sealy or call 979-627-7997.