My symptoms were subtle. I had fluid retention in my hands and feet causing them to swell. I went on dialysis three times a week for 3 ½ hours in the evenings. I was hooked up to a machine that removed the waste and extra water build up from my body and helped to control my blood pressure. I went through the process of getting on the kidney transplant waiting list and listed in three states near me. In the meantime, I worked a full-time job, took care of my home and family, and kept my faith strong.
A year later, I was informed by the transplant coordinator that a kidney was available. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I didn't jump for joy. I was petrified not knowing if I would wake up from the surgery and be able to see my two young sons again.
Fear gripped me, and I told the transplant coordinator, "No, I can't do it."
She was in disbelief. She told me to think it over and call her back in a few minutes. I immediately called my mother, and she said "It's going to be alright. I will go with you, and I will be there with you until the surgery is over."
My surgery went well. I bounced back quickly and had a lot of energy.
Five years later I started having light diarrhea, which lasted for three days. When I called my doctor, she said to come into her office immediately; then she admitted me to the hospital for emergency dialysis treatment.
I didn't know why my kidneys failed again. I thought my world was spinning upside down and I couldn't catch my breath. I got depressed, couldn't work, and went from 145 pounds 110 pounds at 5'5". I walked around like a zombie merely existing but not living.
Somehow, I woke up from this fog that I had been living in and got a sudden will to live. As I walked through my journey of doctors, needlesticks, diet, medications and fighting depression, I started to do those things that I desired to do. I went with a friend to a conference out of state and took my treatments at the dialysis center there. They were so kind and made me feel very comfortable. I started planning trips and events around my dialysis treatments.
I didn't know that my sister Stephanie had been talking it over with her children until she came to me one day and said, "I'll get tested. I'll do whatever it takes to make you well, sis."
It's 12 years later, Stephanie and I are both feeling great.
I went back to school while working full-time and received my BA degree in Journalism from Rider University in 2014. After this experience, I have become an advocate for organ donation. There are more than 100,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list.