Truckee volleyball player Josalyn Brown finds kidney donor, operation a success
Know & Go
What: Halloween fundraiser party
Where: Alibi Ale Works — Truckee Public House
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight
The noise of a dialysis machine is something Truckee senior Josalyn Brown has gotten used to.
Since June 2018, she has undergone the same nightly routine of being hooked to the machine before slipping off to sleep to the sound of its low whir.
“I got used to it, the noise it makes every night,” said Josalyn a few months after beginning dialysis. “I’m comfortable with the sound now. If that sound isn’t going, I can’t sleep because I’m so used to it.”
Josalyn will now have to adjust to nights without the sounds of her dialysis machine, because after more than a year of searching and waiting on transplant lists, she has finally received a kidney from a donor.
‘Her smile is one thing that sticks out’
Since first learning of a kidney condition during a routine physical ahead of her freshman year, followed by being put on dialysis during the summer of her junior year, Josalyn has continued to face the challenges thrown her way.
Initially, doctors and nurses didn’t think it was a good idea for her to play volleyball, the sport she’s loved since age 10.
Josalyn, however, wouldn’t be swayed, and convinced doctors and coaches at Truckee to allow her to join the varsity team. During her junior year, she played by tucking the roughly 12 inches of tube — that doctors had inserted into her stomach for nightly dialysis treatments — into a compression band.
“We always knew that she was going to push through,” said teammate Kelly Cross. “We all had a lot of confidence that she was going to get stronger and better. It was a little scary at first. We were always worried she was going to get hurt when she dove, but she’s learned how to do it.”
Josalyn managed to finish her junior year, traveling with the team on its overnight road trip to Elko with a 25-pound dialysis machine. She helped the Wolverines finish with an undefeated league record and a trip to the state championship game.
Josalyn returned to the team this season and has seen steady minutes as Truckee marches toward another regular season league title. Her season, however, has been cut short, coming to an end in bittersweet fashion during the team’s senior farewell.
“It’s always hard when one of our players is sick,” said Kelly. “Josalyn, she’s pushed through. She’s a great player, super fun, super upbeat, and it’s been great to play with her.”
After the family announced a donor had been found late last August, Josalyn had a surgery scheduled for October, and underwent an operation earlier this week to receive a kidney. She will be forced to miss the remainder of her senior season.
“There’s so many memories with Josalyn. She has sacrificed the most in the four years with the program,” said Truckee Coach Erika Murphy, who coached Josalyn as a youngster on a 12-and-under team. “Obviously she can’t be a regular high school kid. She can’t make bad choices. She has to make good choices every day, and some days she doesn’t feel good, but you know what? She still comes to practice because that’s the kind of kid she is. She’s completely committed to what’s going on. That part has been pretty humbling to coach, because I’ve never had a kid so committed to the sport.”
Though Josalyn’s playing time at Truckee High School has come to an end, she said it’s not the last time she intends on being on a volleyball court.
“It’s scary to think about, to be honest, because I don’t think I’ll play again,” said Josalyn. “Maybe I’ll start coaching volleyball and help with the local club, but it’s really special to be with this team.”
Being on dialysis has taken a lot from Josalyn. It hasn’t allowed her many of the carefree choices afforded to her peers, while forcing her into a nightly routing of checking her weight, blood pressure, temperature and heart rate in order to adjust the solution in the dialysis machine before drifting asleep. Through it all, however, her friends and teammates say one thing hasn’t changed — a beaming smile each time they are greeted by her.
“Her smile is one thing that sticks out. She’s always smiling,” said teammate Joy Galles. “We all love Josalyn a lot and care a lot for her. She’s not only an amazing volleyball paper, but she’s an amazing person — always making us laugh and feel good about ourselves.”
Since finding out about her kidney condition as a freshman, Josalyn has relied on her teammates for support — a group that has grown into a family through bonds made on the court and off.
“One of the things that I’m always super impressed with Josalyn is that she’s always been open about her kidney and her dialysis, which I think takes a lot of courage,” said Joy.
Finding a match
Last April, the fiancée of Josalyn’s cousin, Ashlee Fox, walked into a Chicago hospital to be tested.
She’d heard about Josalyn’s condition, and had no hesitancy when it came to donating a kidney to someone she barely knew.
“I just had a weird feeling. I don’t know why, but I really had a feeling that for some reason it was going to work out,” said Fox.
Fox, who lives with her fiancé and their two children in Chicago, said she thought she may be compatible with Josalyn, but when a phone call from doctors didn’t come on the day it was expected, Fox assumed she had been wrong.
“I was waiting all day. I didn’t get the call … so I assumed it was a ‘no,’” said Fox. “When they called me I was so surprised. I was really shocked. I couldn’t wait to tell the family.”
Upon hearing the news, Josalyn said it took a moment to process the information before being overcome with a flood of emotion.
“Honestly, it took me a second to actually realize what was happening,” said Josalyn. “And then I started balling my eyes out.”
Fox and her family flew to Truckee last week to watch Josalyn’s final game before undergoing surgery. It was the first time the two had ever spent significant time together.
“It was really nice to be able to spend time with them this week and to get to know them,” said Fox. “She’s so grateful. She’s so good with my kids. She’s such a sweetheart and she’s going to do really great things with her life. I’m just really happy to be a part of it.”
The decision to donate wasn’t difficult for Fox, who said she shouldn’t suffer any long-term effects from donating a kidney.
“I’m honored to be able to do it. It’s something I can do and I can save someone’s life. How often are you able to do that?” said Fox. “You just do it. You don’t think too much about. You don’t stress about it. You just go for it, and know that you are changing lives. It’s an easy decision to make.”
Josalyn and Fox successfully underwent surgery on Tuesday, according to Josalyn’s mother Dianna Brown.
“The surgery took a lot longer than we anticipated,” said Brown. “But they’re both doing well and are in recovery.”
Josalyn was able to get out of bed for a short period on Wednesday, said her mother, and her new kidney began working right away.
She will be in the hospital for three to five days, and then will be at the Ronald McDonald House for appointments several days a week.
The Brown family has a GoFundMe page set up to help offset some of the medical expenses they’ve incurred. To donate, visit http://www.gofundme.com/f/5cozofk.
There will also be a Halloween party at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Alibi Ale Works, 10069 Bridge St., Truckee, which will benefit Josalyn. There will be best costume prizes, live music, a raffle and live auction.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.