NKF Serving Maryland and Delaware - Mission Stories

Kristy & Michael Ferracci

Michael & Kristy Ferracci

My love for kidney disease started in May 2000, when I was hired as a patient care technician in Milford, DE. I had no idea what kidney disease was or how many it affected, but it did not take long for me to realize that it was where I was supposed to be in life. Fast forward to August 2004, when my now husband started at the clinic, I worked at as a dialysis patient. We started dating in January 2005, married in September and in March of 2007, I became his living kidney donor. April of 2009 marked the first Southern Delaware Kidney Walk, which is where our volunteering started. It was a family affair, where my husband Michael, son RJ, and my mother Ginny and her husband also volunteered. As the years passed, we have been able to enjoy family vacations, life without dialysis, concerts, and many other good times. In September 2022, things changed when my mother was hospitalized and found out she had CKD and required dialysis. No one knows what challenges this life will bring. Kidney disease is a “silent killer” sometimes with no warning. Kidney disease has come full circle to me and my family. Unfortunately, my mother is not eligible for a kidney transplant due to other health reasons but with my knowledge and experience I have been able to help her, and hundreds of patients navigate life with kidney disease. May of this year will mark 24 years of working in the kidney disease/ dialysis world. Kidney disease not only affects the person but the whole family, with a complete lifestyle change. Even my son, RJ knows the right questions to ask at his job as an Optometric Technician when he is checking in patients for the physicians. My role as a Community Outreach Assistant with the NKF has been rewarding because I can use my knowledge of working in the dialysis clinic. I will continue to tell my story and to educate people whose lives I touch.

Larry Abramson

Larry Abramson at white Sands National Park NM

In May 2006, I was 40, living my best life, newly married and enjoying watching ball games and concerts with friends. I also loved my job, a pharmaceutical rep for Abbott Labs. I loved interacting with physicians and medical staff. Plenty of evening and weekend events, and I was eating (and drinking) quite well. One day I was driving to work and suddenly felt a sharp, intense pain in my left side. I literally had to stop the car and try and breathe. After a few minutes, the pain subsided enough to move and get help. I went to a primary care office, where the doctor ran some tests. After waiting the weekend, the doctor told us I had a kidney stone, but it turned out to be renal cell carcinoma, (kidney cancer).

To say I was surprised would is an understatement. I felt really healthy, I was exercising regularly and eating well. No one in my family had ever had kidney issues. We did our research and decided to have a laparoscopic partial nephrectomy at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. The surgery was set for June 2006, only a month later.

The surgery went well and after several days in the hospital I went home to rest for a few months. During my follow up, my doctor had yet another surprise for me. He told me that the pathology report came back with a rare form of kidney disease called Focal Segmental Glomerular Sclerosis (FSGS). I was shocked to have two kidney issues in a matter of months. Through some diet restrictions, close monitoring of my symptoms, lifestyle changes, and medication, I have been able to maintain decent kidney function.

Today, I’m doing well. I feel good and I enjoy speaking to others about my story. I started my own healthcare consulting firm a few years ago and many of my clients work with kidney disease patients. It was these business connections and experiences that led me to be on the advisory board for the National Kidney Foundation serving Maryland and Delaware. I really enjoy fundraising and educating others about kidney disease. The NKF is a strong advocate and educator for patients who have challenges with the disease. I’m really proud to be able to help the organization grow while also helping patients and the community understand kidney disease.

Rachel Cessna

Rachel and medal won at an event.

Rachel Cessna is a married mother of four; she has a daughter at Penn State and 11th, 10th, and 5th graders. One day she saw a post on Facebook about a girl who needed a kidney. Rachel thought “Why not me?”. This thought kept nagging at her and prompted her to get tested.

Meredith was the girl in need of that kidney.  It turned out that not only was Meredith’s father the teacher of Rachel’s oldest daughter, but Meredith’s aunt, an assistant teacher at Rachel’s younger child's school, overheard a conversation about a student’s mother who was going to donate a kidney to a 13-year-old. As it turned out, that 13-year-old was Meredith, her niece! Talk about 6 degrees of separation! Rachel donated her kidney in October of 2019. On Christmas Eve that same year, just a couple of months after the transplant, Meredith’s mother left a letter for Rachel, and they connected on Christmas Day!

Rachel is an avid athlete and since surgery has participated in several events through an organization called Kidney Donor Athletes. She has done a ½ Iron Man which is a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and a ½ mile run. She has also participated in an 8-mile relay swim in Florida, which included kidney donors from all states!

Rachel says there has been no change in her active lifestyle since her kidney donation. She continues to keep fit, participate in races, drinks a lot of water, and gets annual checkups. Rachel spends her time doing the things she loves and connecting with others in the kidney community. 

Michele Love

Michele, living kidney donor with Sal, kidney recipient

With over 40 years of experience with event planning, catering, retail, and culinary entrepreneurship and while running Maryland’s beloved Mamma Mish’s Homemade Dishes. Michele Love has an extensive love and passion for bringing people together. As NKF Serving Maryland & Delaware’s Event Director this year for Sante’- Giving Back for Kidney Disease, she has a special connection to our organization. This year, she celebrates 10 years of being a living kidney donor!

"We met through God who connected a friend of mine and Sal’s daughter Lauren who went to college with her. On New Year’s Day, a post was shared, and I saw it for a B-positive donor for a kidney. I answered the post after being in church on New Year’s Eve praying for God’s plans for the new year! Which included blessing someone with life! I had known for a few years that the Lord was putting on my heart to donate a kidney. 2014 was the year. I saw the post and within a few hours, I was speaking to the family of Sal. His daughter Lauren was his advocate for a kidney donor. This was in January 2014. I met Sal, his daughter, and his wife in March 2014- ironically, National Kidney Month. We began the process of physical, mental, and spiritual planning, praying, meetings and appointments. I was given the go-ahead May 2014 and the surgery was set for July 1, 2014. The first picture is the day before surgery, second is our first anniversary celebrating our kidneyversary and the last is our last time celebrating together given I was super busy with Mamma Mish’s and could not get to NY visit. This year marks our 10-year miracle anniversary, and we are looking forward to gathering together to celebrate this huge milestone."