By Ajai Shaw
I am a senior at Thurston High School looking forward to graduation like all of my classmates. Getting to this milestone in my life was a very different journey from my fellow Eagles though. I love to waste time on Netflix and admit I have a bit of an obsession with Grey’s Anatomy. I have a boyfriend and I love to go out to eat. Teenage stuff. At the minimum, I spend 13 hours a week in dialysis, feel weak and sore way too often, and desperately need a kidney donor.
When I was four years old, I went to a routine check up before starting preschool. It was discovered that I had protein in my urine. The next week, I went through tests and more tests. Everything pointed to the fact that my kidneys were failing. At the age of nine, I found out I was at full renal failure which means my kidneys were functioning at less than fifty percent. I started at home dialysis.
Why do we need kidneys?
“Each person has two kidneys in their lower back. The kidneys continuously filter blood and produce urine to remove waste products, salts and excess fluid.” www.nephcure.org
If you think of a coffee filter that filters coffee keeping the grounds from entering the pot, you can better understand how glomeruli work. Glomeruli are filters in kidneys which keep needed cells and protein in blood. My illness is a rare disease called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (fsgs). The glomeruli in my kidneys are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. As a result of my disease, my kidneys are failing.
Spending the amounts of time I do in dialysis and feeling the way I do, is not how I want to spend my days. The dialysis is so routine to my life but I need it to live. The dialysis is removing waste, salt and extra water, keeping a safe level of certain chemicals in my blood, and is helping to control my blood pressure.
“While dialysis is a lifesaving treatment, it performs only about 10 percent of the work a functioning kidney does. Also because of its impact on the body, dialysis can cause other serious health problems and complications. As a result, the average life expectancy for a patient on dialysis is generally five years. On the other hand, patients who receive a kidney transplant typically live longer than those who stay on dialysis.” (http://www.bidmc.org/CentersandDepartments/Departments/TransplantInstitute/Kidney/TheBenefitsofTransplant)
I am currently on a kidney donor waitlist, but people can see if they are a possible living donor.
The National Kidney Foundation explains, “When you donate an organ to someone else, you are providing a life-sustaining gift. But there are many things you should consider carefully before you make the decision to become a living donor. You will need to consider your overall health, and whether you have any medical problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. You will also need to consider any effects donation might have on you, your spouse, your children, or other family members. Your finances are also important, such as time lost from work and travel expenses. In short, giving an organ to someone else means being ready to face some emotional, physical, and financial challenges.”
Giving a kidney is obviously a huge step to do for someone else. For this reason, it is very hard for me to ask. Family members have tried, but unfortunately complications made it not possible.
“To donate a kidney to a loved one, friend, or even a stranger, is truly to give the gift of life. Living donation frequently is a positive experience for both the giver and the receiver. Typically those who donate kidneys report they would do so again,” explains the National Kidney Foundation site.
If you are someone who is even considering the choice, check out https://www.kidney.org.