A Life Cut Short: Honoring a Mother's Legacy through Gaming

May 11, 2023, 9:20am EDT

Joseph, his mother, and sister

When Joe was seven, his mother frequently visited the hospital, culminating in a four-month medically induced coma. As a child, he wasn't aware of what his mother was battling, only that she wasn't home and missed Thanksgiving or Christmas. It wasn't until he turned thirteen that he learned the truth.

Growing up around kidney disease

Joseph's mother in the 80's by a tree

When Joe was in middle school, his grandparents sat him down to explain that his mother had type 2 diabetes, which Joe would also later develop, and kidney disease. She suffered memory loss and a foggy brain from these diseases which significantly impacted her day-to-day activities.

"I love all my family, but I lived in a multigenerational household, so everyone was in each other's business. It was frustrating for them to see my mom like that," said Joe. "They were understanding but also upset, and it's hard to balance those feelings. You have to understand that it's not just your kidneys–kidney disease and diabetes can lead to so many other issues."

As Joe neared the end of high school, his mom started dialysis after going into kidney failure. 

"She was a great mother who I love dearly but as time passed she got more volatile. She had a chemical imbalance in her brain so you never knew what mood she would be in,” said Joe. “She also got very tired and zoned out from dialysis."

After finishing high school, Joe had a hard choice to make–go to music school far from home or go to the community college nearby and take care of his mom.

"I was just starting college but I also stayed home to take care of my mom. I got up every other day at three or four o'clock in the morning for dialysis," said Joe. "There was some resentment but as time went on, she became my best friend. I knew we had a finite period of time together."

Learn more about diabetes and stage 5 kidney disease.

Making the most of their time together

Joseph (L) and Mom (R) using oxygen treatment

Joe knew time with his mother was short, so he did his best to make the most of it. 

"When she got home from dialysis, she would sleep until I got home from classes. I'd wake her up and take her to get dinner, go to petting zoos, or play with my dog, Heidi, whom she loved," said Joe. "She also loved movies, so I took her to every possible one I could."

Sadly, Joe's mother was moved to hospice right before the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown began. 

"I was planning to visit her the day the lockdown procedures started so I couldn't see her. At the end of her life, I had COVID-19 and was bedridden because of complications from diabetes," said Joe. "I found out my mother passed from my sister who called me in the morning to let me know. We weren’t there when she passed and we couldn’t properly celebrate her life with a funeral so we didn't get any closure."

It was tough for Joe after his mother's death, but he found ways to cope: "It was rough. I lost my mother, was struggling with diabetes, and got diagnosed with hypertension. I kept myself mentally occupied by playing music and online video games. Being around people and having community support was the best thing to do."

Are you or someone you love struggling with kidney disease? Join an NKF Community to get support from others in a similar situation.

Honoring his mother's memory

Joseph (L) and Mom (R) smiling

One of Joe's passions is Esports, a type of online gaming where people watch gamers compete against each other. Esports businesses manage and make money from these competitive games by hosting tournaments, managing professional players or teams, and selling merchandise. 

"I started in Esports when I was fourteen. My mother encouraged me to have fun and go for it, so I started getting competitive," said Joe. "I won a few hundred dollars in gaming equipment when I was younger and recently started getting into management, content creation, and social media for my own Esports business called OutlastGamingNA."

He started his own Esports business after the organization he had been working with placed more value on the game than their players. 

"I needed to take care of my mom and I got screamed at after missing a team meeting where players discussed strategy before a game. I never want someone else to go through this. My players and colleagues are so much more than numbers to me," Joe said. "When you're spending a lot of time with the same people, it's important to be warm and kind. I evaluate performance and have a stake in their playing, but we are all people and I try to keep that balance. It's a competition, but it's fun."

Joe decided to try and raise money for kidney disease awareness to honor his mother and reached out to NKF to see what he could do.

"My mind was blown when NKF told me about Team Kidney Streams. We created a fundraiser using the platform and raised a few hundred dollars. It was super fun," said Joe. "It's been great to see my platform and the Team Kidney Streams platform growing. I absolutely plan on doing it again because it is so important that we spread kidney disease awareness. I'm not a massive platform but even I can make even a small impact. If hundreds of people make small impacts versus one massive creator, it will all even out. That's what I'm trying to do."

There is no "us" without "you". Give, volunteer, or advocate to help win the fight against kidney disease.

Join Team Kidney Streams

Hand holding a video game controller in front of computer monitor

Whether you share kidney disease facts while dodging opponents, encourage viewers to check their kidney health during a morning vlog, or host a charity stream, Team Kidney Streams gives you the chance to fight kidney disease while doing what you love.

It's easy to get started! Just follow these steps:

  1. Register
  2. Personalize the page with your story
  3. Add a photo to make unique
  4. Share it with your community

Are you up for the challenge? Have questions? Check out the FAQs or contact Team Kidney Streams.

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