Before I was a Kidney Warrior, I was a Marine.
End-Stage Renal Disease (the last stage of kidney disease) is a medical condition in which a person’s kidneys cease functioning on a permanent basis leading to the need for a regular course of long-term dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life (source: cms.gov).Kidney Disease is one of the lesser known illnesses. Maybe because kidneys are a pair of the lesser known organs in the human body. Personally, I knew the bare minimum about kidney disease because of a relative who received a kidney transplant after being on dialysis for a few years. I thought it would never happen to me.
Kidney Disease is one of the lesser known illnesses. Maybe because kidneys are a pair of the lesser known organs in the human body. Personally, I knew the bare minimum about kidney disease because of a relative who received a kidney transplant after being on dialysis for a few years. I thought it would never happen to me.
So there I was. 2011. Afghanistan. I was a Combat Camera Marine, and I felt like I was in the prime of my life. I was halfway through my fourth combat deployment, and planning on heading to Drill Instructor School once I returned to the States. I believed that I had everything in order to move forward in my career.
Then one day I realized how swollen my feet were at the end of the day. I tried everything to get the swelling down, but it only became worse. The day when it was too painful to walk back to my living quarters only to discover that my feet covered in dark purple bruises and my ankles were nonexistent. My legs felt like they were full of wet clay, with deep indentions in my skin from my trousers. I knew that I should have gone to medical way before it got to this point.
I limped my way to medical and instead of the typical question I feared would be asked (Are you pregnant?), the on-call doc was genuinely concerned with my present condition. In a matter of days, I was immediately medically evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. Two weeks in Germany, then back to the states to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. I got to spend a lovely amount of time there undergoing every test you could imagine to ultimately be diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder which caused my kidneys to fail.
This caused a bunch of “you can’t make this stuff up” life experiences that changed my entire life. I received my second chance at life on April 2, 2011. My living donor is the most selfless, caring person that I have ever met…except that I didn’t meet her until after she agreed to give her kidney to me. It took me feeling my life leave my body to reach out for help…and she found me.
When I woke up from the transplant surgery, when I realized that it was over I started crying. I was so happy. It could have been the drugs, but all I could think is that I wanted everyone who survives by dialysis to feel the way that I do right at this moment.
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