From Kidney Failure to Academic Success

Posted on May 28, 2021

A silver and gold Class of 2021 sign and a congratulatory banner adorn Britney’s bay in the dialysis unit at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Her kidney may be failing her, but she was determined to succeed in academics. It is a momentous Friday. 

“I got kicked out of high school. I was a rough kid growing up,” Britney explains. “I had a really bad attitude, anger issues and I suffer with depression. It made it harder for me to go to school, so I didn’t really go, and when I did go, I was always in trouble.” 

But that is all in the past.

“I really needed to get things started, take baby steps to where I want to be,” she says. 

Today, she receives her graduate equivalency degree (GED). 

“She truly wanted to do this for herself, and I think that’s the most powerful thing for us as teachers, to have a patient who really cares,” says Kendall Williams, school teacher for patient academic services in the Child Life Department at the hospital. 

Now outfitted from head to toe in graduation gear from a black cap to a black gown, Britney stands up to walk her own graduation stage. Pomp and Circumstance plays on a speaker nearby. Nurses, teachers and other clinical staff tear up with pride to see Britney’s goal come to fruition. 

“I ended up getting it in a month’s time. I was really happy with myself,” Britney says. “I passed every test the first time.”

“It’s great to see all of her hard work pay off,” says Kayla Megonegal, another school teacher who assisted with Britney’s studies. “Britney would never check her scores online, she would always wait until we came to her and opened up her envelope, and the emotion on her face was worth every second.” 

Britney walks down the hall and back with sass and pride. Everyone claps. Amanda Sliby, her dialysis unit specific teacher, was there in spirit while on maternity leave. Her position is funded by the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation, and made possible by donor Nancy Hamilton, who was able to speak with Britney virtually. 

“So you’re graduating and this is the big, big day and all I have to say is congratulations. It’s got to be hard managing your dialysis, your schoolwork and what life deals us,” Nancy says.

“It was hard work, but I cannot appreciate all three of my teachers enough,” Britney says. “And thank you for your generosity.” 

Now with her GED in hand, the future's looking brighter. As Britney says, “one baby step at a time.”  


Heart Surgery and Hallway Soccer

A heartwarming “first practice” for 15-year-old Wilfre.

Read More

A Birthday Wish

Celebrating a first birthday in the hospital isn’t ideal, but the Johns Hopkins All Children’s staff helps “Sea Bass” and his family have a special day.

Read More

View all MOMENTS