My name is Erin; I’m twenty one years old from Saint Paul, MN and a rising senior at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. When I was eleven years old I had my routine checkup at Saint Paul Children’s Hospital where an on-call Physician Assistant (PA) noticed my unusually high blood pressure. Although many kids typically get nerves and anxiety at the doctor’s office, sometimes leading to higher blood pressure, I was fortunate enough to have a PA that wanted to look into my blood pressure further. After ultrasounds and long days of medical tests, I was diagnosed with stage three chronic kidney disease (CKD). Since I was only eleven years old, I really don’t remember how I felt when I received my diagnosis. However, I distinctly remember when my parents and I met with my new kidney specialist for the first time. It suddenly felt real in that moment, due to the overall feeling of shock, sadness, and anxiety in the small doctor’s office. This time of sadness was ultimately turned into hope and a new understanding of chronic disease due to the doctors and nurses at the University of Minnesota pediatric nephrology clinic who have given my family and I a greater understanding of kidney disease and the tools to have a normal, healthy life.
Since my diagnoses I’ve made a couple of changes to my everyday schedule. I regularly take blood pressure medication, keep a low sodium diet, and visit my specialist every six months for tests. I’ve also been able to get my blood drawn by the same nurse every six months for the past ten years. I’m very lucky to be in a stable place right now, and although a kidney transplant is in my future, I try to be present and proactive in maintaining a good health. Although any diagnosis can be confusing, scary, and sometimes annoying, I’ve learned that this disease has helped me mature and grow. It’s made me be more aware of my body and health, created an interested in medicine and preventative health, and given me the desire to become a Physician Assistant. My constant interest in kidney disease has finally led me to the National Kidney Foundation serving Minnesota to help raise awareness of this very prevalent disease and be a resource to other kidney disease patients who may have just been diagnosed. I’ve gone through those feelings of grief and confusion, and want to make sure patients have access to the right information around them to live a normal life.