The kidney story began at the age of 22. I was pregnant with my youngest son and delivered him two months prematurely due to the disease. Everything seemed to return to normal but I was closely monitored by nephrologists. They weren’t able to do any tests since the right kidney was worse than left. MRI scan results determined Nephrotic Syndrome, which gradually shrinks renal arteries. The disease progressed and at the age of 25, my kidneys completely failed.
I immediately needed dialysis. I started with Hemodialysis three times a week for 3 1/2 years until my fistula access failed. I then switched to Peritoneal dialysis which would require 10 hour treatments nightly. This brought many challenges to my already busy life, being a wife and raising young children. I continued to stay positive and started volunteering for Sierra Donor Services. I felt empowered and took an active role to stay strong during the waiting period and at the same time advocate and share the importance of organ donation, despite the decline of my health over the 5 years awaiting a life saving kidney transplant.
I had the opportunity to attend Lobby Day at the State Capital to promote SB 1395 – Alquist Altruistic Living Donor Registry (The First Ever Living Organ Donor Registry) & AB 998- The extended medical bill for anti-rejection medicine coverage. These 2 bills were both passed into legislation.
On February 23, 2010, at the age of 30, I received the gift of life in a miraculous way. I was a part of the first of my center’s in-house donor chain. Including me, three other lives were saved as four donors gave the gift of life, starting with a donor who has remained anonymous. I am truly grateful for the gift my donor, Sandra Morales, gave me. We continue to stay in touch and this has truly changed the lives of everyone that was part of this experience.
Just 5 months after my transplant I caught a deadly infection called valley fever. I endured many hospitalizations, numerous surgeries, and went into acute kidney transplant failure in March 2012. Miraculously I pulled through the rejection and looked like I was recovering well. I was determined to finally celebrate my gift of life at the 2012 Transplant Games of America. It motivated me to get back in shape. I was just coming out of rejection and knew I needed to fight for my transplant. I never lost hope and kept going. I needed to push whatever energy I had to become strong again. Many recipients have to maintain organ function by functioning and staying active. So I started slow by walking on a treadmill, eventually I was in the gym 3-4 times a week, attending zumba and yoga classes. I was feeling at my strongest. After months in and out of the hospital, surgery after surgery, it felt like I was healing.
With approval of doctors me & my family left to Michigan and took the opportunity to make it a family vacation travelling to Chicago first. One that we really needed. It was healing for us all to be with a community of survivors. It brought a lot of hope for the future. I met people who had multiple transplants something I knew was a reality for all transplant recipients. But I didn’t hear not one complaint. We all knew it was borrowed time, a gift that is equivalent to minutes, hours, days, months, years… A gift to live a somewhat normal life, be dialysis free and the gift to inspire. Because every person there had a story of survival. Something my family and I needed to celebrate after all we gone through. We knew how easy it was to lose to the battle. So we had to learn to make the best of it & make everyday count. I was encouraged by my team to run a 200 meter even with my swollen feet. Because it wasn’t about winning… I ran for my donor… I ran for my family… I ran because I was thankful to still be here…
Unfortunately a couple of months after this trip my transplant was starting to fail and it was recommended that I start Peritoneal dialysis immediately to preserve what kidney function I had. It was heartbreaking but it was a reality I had to face. I started to feel good again. My numbers were looking great and treatments was minimal. UC Davis followed up quickly to put me back on the list. I had to go though the whole interview process. To come to my surprise there was no sign of the Valley Fever. They kept me on a low dose of immunosuppression medication. Enough to keep my transplanted kidney stable. So life went on and this was a period I stopped writing but never stopped sharing via Instagram and Facebook. This was the way God showed me to heal, my words now turned into photos. I didn’t want to say much and photos was worth a thousand words. I had almost 2 years without a single hospitalization. I was thankful yet slowly mourning the loss of my transplant. But there was always that something beyond myself that helped me to keep pushing on and living for my family.
The infection resurfaced in February 2014, this was now my 4th occurrence with valley fever. They found activity in my lower spine and immediately took me off my immunosuppression meds. I had to have another round of strong IV medication to treat the bone infection. This time it completely damaged my kidney transplant and had to have it removed. I had to regroup and let God walk me through another tough battle. My husband lost his dad & mom in between this time. My mother in law had kidney failure and was in the process of getting on dialysis but unfortunately didn’t make it. Getting back on Hemodialysis after almost 7 years was scary especially after losing someone so dear to me as a result to kidney failure. This wasn’t the first to see someone lose their battle with kidney failure but she was so dear to me that I took it very hard just as my family did. But as always God is walking us through it one day at a time. (Read post: the fight continues)
In March 2015, I had my 5th occurrence with the infection. This time it reappeared in my right shoulder. Surgery, hospitalization, 7 weeks of back-to-back treatment was in order. This is where the story leaves off. I “Stay Fighting” for another day. It’s in these moments that faith is the only thing that makes sense and keeps me going. When I think I can’t handle the pain any longer God shows me what I’m fighting for. It’s for my family. I would go through all of this again for the lessons it has taught me and my family. He is continuing to use us all to be an example of his light which shines even brighter through our darkest hours. (Read post: the valley fever story)
So the story continues… It’s not a storybook fairy tale and only time will tell what my happy ending will be. It’s the story that will matter most in the end. There is one theme that doesn’t change in this story is that I’m a survivor and I’m still here because of God’s grace. My curse is my blessing because it has only made me better along the way. I have had so many miracles in my lifetime from the day I was born. Been brought back from the brink of death to only strengthen my perspective in life. To be thankful for the health I do have and to see the little things that makes life so precious.
The lifesaving journey continues. I have been a pro at starting my life over and over again. I will keep fighting until there is no fight to fight anymore. This whole journey has definitely given me a new outlook on life. I’ve learned to share my experiences & through my testimony healing comes which hasn’t failed me yet. My health challenges has given me a strength I never knew I had, a deeper sense of purpose, and a vision to make a difference; to live by faith and make the best of the borrowed time that I have.