I was diagnosed with lupus and kidney failure when I was in junior high school. By the age of 11, I was enduring three-hour-long dialysis treatments three times a week through a catheter in my chest just to survive. It was a difficult time; being on the brink of my teenage years, I kept my health issues to myself as much as possible so I could feel normal among peers, despite often leaving school early and constantly lacking energy.
Two years later, in the summer of 1999, right before I started high school, my mom donated one of her kidneys to me so I could live as a normal teenager. My body initially rejected the transplant — and I went back on dialysis for a few months after contracting H1N1 in 2010 — but I spent most of the next 15 years living life like most people, completing high school and college, and earning my teaching credential and master’s in education. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for my mom’s gift.
In January 2016, however, my transplanted kidney was removed due to a worrisome mass. I’m back on dialysis, and it’s a different experience now that I am 31 years old. With no family available to donate their kidney, I was forced to become my own advocate. I turned to social media and made my health struggles very public in a desperate search for a donor. It seemed crazy, but I’d read the success stories and didn’t have much choice otherwise, for the national waitlist can take 10 years.
After a month, I received a message from someone whom I had never met. He’d heard about my story from a friend, was willing to donate, and went through the testing. I eventually decided to accept a donation from a family friend instead, but I will never forget the fact that someone I’ve still never met was willing to give me the gift of life.
For anyone in need of a kidney donor, I hope this inspires you to be your own advocate. There are people out there willing to give the gift of life — you just need to find them.
The author is hosting Karaoke for a Cause to benefit the National Kidney Foundation on Friday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. at Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant (18 E. Ortega St.). See karaokeforacausesb.org.