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Prior to 2006, Audra Skibo was dealing with mysterious health problems. At first, doctors believed it was multiple sclerosis or another disease that attacks the muscles. It wasn't until a kidney biopsy later that year that she learned what it actually was: focal segmental glomerulosclerosis or FSGS.
"It is an ugly and silent disease. It's also hereditary for me. My mom has kidney disease and we suspect that my grandfather, who died at 45, had it," said Audra. "My doctor said it's like a scar on your kidney and it's not reversible. You can only slow the process down, but you can't stop it from happening."
Taking action to maintain kidney function
Audra was determined to keep her kidneys functioning as long as possible. As an exercise dance instructor, she was happy to continue working out while reducing salt and protein to help lighten the load of waste on the kidneys.
"I've been battling for a long time and got it under control,” Audra said. “I listened, educated myself, and kept in shape as best I could."
For almost 15 years, Audra was able to slow the progression of kidney disease this way. Then, in 2020 her doctor delivered the bad news.
"All of a sudden he stopped and he got quiet. He looked like he was going to cry and said that my kidneys are shutting down," Audra said. "I asked him what my options were and he said we needed to think about transplant and dialysis down the road."
Audra is not the type of person to be deterred. She changed her diet again: eating less protein, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. Despite these efforts, her body began to fill with the toxins her kidneys weren’t able to remove and she began to feel ill.
Even as she grew sicker, Audra never gave up.
"I kept telling myself, you've got more to do here. I want to be here for my parents, for my husband, and my cats and dogs," Audra said. "I'm going to do whatever I need to do and I did every single thing my doctors asked me to do. I just felt that I have more on my journey."
Audra's persistence paid off and she was quickly added to the transplant waiting list. She wouldn't have to wait there long; Joyce Lackovic, a childhood friend, reached out, determined to become Audra's donor.
"She said that she felt in her heart that she had to do this for me. She was so positive," Audra said. “From the very beginning, she never ever wavered. She did it for me and saved my life."
Within a few days of testing, Joyce was declared a close match, and the surgery was scheduled on Audra's birthday, August 27th, 2021, of all days! The surgery was successful, with the new kidney producing urine immediately– she couldn't have asked for a better birthday present.
Going the extra mile
Joyce went above and beyond to celebrate the transplant and Audra's strength throughout her kidney journey.
"People really rallied for me. I even had a parade," Audra said. "Joyce contacted my best friend on Facebook and set it up. There were balloons and horns honking. They even had a police escort start the whole thing. They went around the block twice to see me."
Now Audra is waiting until she's fully recovered to become an NKF Peers mentor to bring that same joy and comfort to others with kidney disease: "I just want to give people hope and tell them not to give up."
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