A Mother's Story: How Kidney Disease Made A Family Stronger

Rosa McJunkin knows just how hopeless one can feel as a mother when her child is facing a disease that causes one symptom after another without an explanation. Rosa’s daughter, Iyanna, has been fighting kidney disease since she was 11 years old. At 13, Iyanna’s vision was affected and her doctors couldn’t stabilize her hypertension. In addition, she started to develop arthritis, back pains and migraines and her mother felt helpless and hopeless.

But Iyanna, now 23, turned out to be more resilient than Rosa ever dreamed. She’s meeting the challenge of kidney failure head on and became a mother herself, against all odds.

As a late Mother’s Day celebration, Rosa will hit the pavement at the Healthy Kidney 10K race benefiting the National Kidney Foundation on May 17 in New York’s Central Park to show support for her daughter.

"All I wanted was for my teenager to have a great childhood, to go to dances, join a sports team or even just enjoy being with her family," Rosa said. "But it was one doctor's visit after another."

Iyanna eventually went into kidney failure, and at age 23, she had to begin dialysis, but not before she made a life-changing decision - to become a mother herself.

"The doctors had told us early on that Iyanna couldn't have any children," Rosa said. "But she decided she wanted to be a mom… how could we say no?"

Despite numerous surgeries, dialysis treatments three times a week and other health complications, Iyanna gave birth to a healthy baby girl, making Rosa a glowing grandmother.

"My joy is being able to hold the baby… I make sure every day that her mother is healthy, and the whole family pitches in to help," Rosa said. "My day's schedule is determined by how my daughter's days begin, but that's what a mother is for - to help and to comfort when a child is in need."

Rosa is honoring her daughter as she competes in the Healthy Kidney 10K Race in Central Park on March 17 sponsored by the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in memory of Sheik Zayed, the country's ruler who died of kidney failure. The National Kidney Foundation is a beneficiary of this race, hosted by the New York Road Runners. It's a small way for the entire McJunkin family to raise awareness about chronic kidney disease and share their message of hope and perseverance.

"It's hard to watch my daughter not being able to do simple things after dialysis, but Iyanna is determined to live life for her daughter and continue her treatments at the dialysis center," Rosa said. "If she can do that, I can participate in a 10K race."