Lifelong Disease Doesn't Stop This Kidney Patient in His Tracks

Peter Schildman's Story

I needed a kidney transplant because I was born with congenital nephrotic syndrome. My body produced an abnormal form of a protein that the kidneys need to do their jobs. Because the kidneys rely on this protein, normally a baby doesn't survive more than a few months with this disease. Congenital nephrotic syndrome is a very rare medical problem traced back to the 17th century and particularly to the Finnish people. There is no known Finnish origin in my family, but there may have been ages ago.

I have had three kidney transplants during my lifetime. I was just four years old when I received one of my father's kidneys. Unfortunately, my body rejected this kidney in five weeks. After eight months of dialysis, I received my second kidney. I was five years old at that time. This kidney was not doing well after five years, so I was put on the transplant waiting list and received my third kidney at age 11.

I don't remember feeling any special emotions at the time of the transplants. I was young and the people around me were always positive and encouraging. No one has treated me differently because of my kidney transplants. I was short for my age, but I was never teased about it. I seemed to draw people's attention, and when they found out about all the medical problems I experienced, they were amazed at my positive attitude. I gave people courage, I think.

I have had my third kidney for 30 years. My surgeon said at my last visit that my kidney is a “keeper”. I'm counting on that for sure. Another patient of this surgeon has had his kidney for 35 years.

I haven’t let my medical hardships stand in my way and my life has changed a lot since my third transplant. I graduated high school and I work part time at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse in food services. I volunteer at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse. I speak a little German. I also know a lot about trains and I usually travel by train with my father. This year I plan on traveling to Alaska in June and in March I will travel to Portland for the 30 year anniversary of my transplant. I try to take a trip on the train every year on my transplant anniversary (March 16). This year I will be taking these trips on my own.

I never think about my kidney failing. Instead, I keep a very positive attitude and have faith in my guardian angel donors, Lisa and Victoria, to keep me safe.