Greetings from guest blogger Alli Young, a 2014 National Kidney Walk Ambassador!

Written by: Alli, a 2014 National Kidney Walk Ambassador

Hi everybody my name is Alli Young and I am from New Jersey! At the age of 14, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease, specifically Focal Segmental Glomerulsclerosis (FSGS). I was misdiagnosed multiple times and because of that I have had a significant loss of kidney function. I was diagnosed at the beginning of my freshman year and while everyone was picking out his or her first day of school outfits, I was at the doctor’s office trying to figure out how to treat this disease that turned my life upside down. One thing that I have learned in the past two years is that kidney disease does not define me and that it only motivates me to be a better person.

For the past two and a half years I have been volunteering with the National Kidney Foundation. I have raised over $10,000 and formed my own team called Alli’s Army. I love to initiate new relationships with people and motivate them to live life to the fullest. Last year I was the Kids for Kidneys Captain and this year I am the Ambassador of the National Kidney Foundation. Inspiration can only come from within and even when I am having a bad day I turn it around by putting smiles on everyone’s faces. Enough about me what you should really know is that there is a life beyond kidney disease and any disease as a matter of fact. When life gives you lemons you make bright yellow lemonade.

Every week I will be blogging about a different topic on kidney disease and if you have any questions or just want to talk I will always be here for you. Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to learn about your journey and educate you about kidney disease!! Next weeks topic will be about how kidney disease changes your life and what modifications you will have to make to live your life the way you want to live it.

A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.”  -Tom Stoppard

At home…with dialysis and my family

Written By: Sylvia Amador

It all started when Vanessa Evans was 14 years old. She was getting a regular check up and her doctors found that she was very anemic. They decided to conduct several exams and discovered that she had Chronic Kidney Disease.

“I didn’t realize the impact that it was going to have in my life or how things would change” she says.  Just as she graduated High School, Vanessa received a transplant from her mother, Maya Evans. The transplant only lasted 6 years, so she began dialysis.

Vanessa spent 10 years doing dialysis at a clinic. She would be hooked up to a machine that cleaned her body of toxic fluids, filtering salts, and wastes, 3 days a week for 4 hours. Today, Vanessa is 41, and is one of the 5,500 that do home Hemodialysis. “I wanted to be at home with the baby” Vanessa describes when asked why she decided to try at home dialysis.  “I didn’t want to go to a clinic 3 days a week for so many hours”

Currently, three Hemodialysis machines are used for home hemodialysis in the United States. Vanessa uses one of them: NxStage machine. She does short daily treatments, 5 to 6 days a week for two and a half hours. She was trained, along with her husband, Paul, to use the machine. The training lasted about a month and they mention that it wasn’t very complicated. Vanessa no longer needs to take pills to regulate her blood pressure and says that her health has improved!

For Vanessa, home dialysis has given her time to be a mom, a wife, and a friend. Her husband, Paul mentions that at home dialysis has given Vanessa the chance to have a normal life and to grow with her family. As a final note, Vanessa happily adds “Home dialysis is such a great option. A lot of people don’t know about it, so it’s important to spread the word!”

Vanessa - Home Dialysis

Kidney Walk Leads to Kidney Donation

Thorne Ambulance_Dec 11Charity walks are great at raising funds and awareness for worthy causes, but rarely do they result in life-saving experiences for their participants.

In many ways, Terry Gerics, 62, of Greenville, was a typical Kidney Walk participant – personally affected by kidney disease and eager to support the fight in her community. When she was 43, Gerics was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease — a condition that causes cysts to form on the kidneys.

“When I was diagnosed, the doctors told me there would be a transplant in my future,” she said. “I thought they had to be wrong because I was such a healthy person.”

Gerics’ kidneys continued to function until she was 61; that’s when her doctors noticedshe was nearing kidney failure. The reality of her condition sank in. It was then that Gerics decided to volunteer and get personally involved with the National Kidney Foundation.

“I heard about the Upstate Kidney Walk last year, and I knew I had to go,” she said. “I usually never take Saturdays off at work, but this was important.”

While volunteering at the Walk, Gerics wore a simple sign that stated, “Kidney needed; any blood type”. The sign caught the eye of Simpsonville resident Sarah Thorne, 27, who runs Thorne Ambulance Service with her husband. Thorne was also volunteering at the walk and Gerics’ sign struck a chord.

“I know quite a lot about kidney disease because so many of our non-emergency transports are for dialysis patients who have kidney failure. So, I know what this disease can do,” she said. “I also knew that donating a kidney could save a life. I believe my faith led me to Terry. My heart was telling me it was the right thing to do.”

The women exchanged numbers and within the month, Thorne was undergoing tests to donate one of her kidneys.

“I had no hesitations about it, and it went very fast. We were very blessed,” Thorne said. “I filled out prequalification paperwork at the end of April and I was in surgery on May 31st.”

The donation saved Gerics’ life and prevented years of dialysis and a potentially long wait on the transplant list. Gerics is not only grateful, but is eager to pay the good deed forward as she and Thorne walk together at this year’s Upstate Kidney Walk being held at in Amphitheater at Furman University in Greenville, SC on April 21. It will be the anniversary of their fateful meeting.

“Sarah is a remarkable person, and I am so appreciative for who she is,” Gerics said. “Now, I’ve made it my mission to find a kidney for someone else. Give me a name, a picture, and their blood type, and I’ll work hard to change their life the way Sarah changed mine. “Thorne Ambulance

Soldier Saves a Life at Home

DallasSoldier Brandon and Bernadette_December 4 2013Dallas, TX – Bernadette Gail Moten was taking a morning trip to the corner store when she happened upon a radio station street team that would help change her life.

The 57-year-old Plano resident had been on dialysis for kidney failure since 2007, and the 106.1 Kiss FM crew asked her, on air, if there was anything she wanted.

“Dialysis was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Moten said. “So, I told them that I was on dialysis and needed a kidney.”

It was a long shot, but the call over the radio reached Dallas resident Brandon Vance, who was having a routine commute to work when he heard Bernadette’s message.

“It just sounded like something I needed to do,” Vance, 29, said.

Vance, who did three tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Army, was a perfect match for Bernadette. After months of additional testing, the transplant finally went through in late 2011. The experience was life changing not only for Vance, but for Moten who was finally off the painful schedule of dialysis.

“I get to enjoy life now and there is so much I am thankful for,” Moten said. “Brandon gave me life, and now I really take care of myself because I know I have a part of someone else inside of me.”

After initially shying away from telling his story, Vance has decided to become an advocate for organ donation and kidney disease issues. He participated in the Dallas Kidney Walk and shared his story with hundreds of others who have been affected by organ donation and kidney disease in Texas.

“For awhile I kept the donation quiet,” said Vance. “Then I realized this is an important message to get out there. I want more people to look into living donation and organ donation so we can get people who are waiting off that list. To me, it’s the right thing to do.”

Meet the Imbriale Family – 2013 National Kidney Walk Ambassadors

FamilyTwenty six years ago, my youngest son, Michael, was born with Vater Syndrome. The “R” in Vater stands for renal difficulties. He had two kidneys, but after spending the first seven months of his life in the hospital, one kidney degenerated to nothing. We were advised that when Michael hit puberty he would likely need a transplant. Our family lived like there was a time bomb ticking.

When Michael was 16, his creatinine level rose dramatically without visible symptoms.

The doctors were surprised Michael was even functioning and told us that some day he just wouldn’t be able to get out of bed.

 Fortunately for us, we had two living donors willing to give a kidney to Michael. During compatibility testing, however, I realized there wasn’t a lot of information for donors, recipients or relatives about the organ donation process, insurance issues, and the surgery itself.

I decided that I would become actively involved in trying to improve communication about the process of kidney transplantation and about kidney disease. I commenced by writing checks to the National Kidney Foundation in Philadelphia and eventually joined the Board of Directors, which made me feel like I was helping to “get the word out” to others, to improve their journey, and inform those who were not aware of kidney disease and its risk factors. Education about kidney issues, what to expect as both donor and recipient, and serving as mentor for those going through the process has become an important part of my life.

I have now served on the Board of Directors for the National Kidney Foundation in Philadelphia for ten years in various capacities and on a number of committees.  I truly love the work of the Foundation.

My family has chosen the Philadelphia Kidney Walk as a primary way to help create awareness about kidney disease and organ donation.  It is also a wonderful opportunity to raise essential funds for the NKF. For the last two years, our team has been the top fund raiser for the walk, collecting over ten thousand dollars each year.

We met many incredible people on our journey towards Michael’s transplant and no matter how bad we thought our problem was, we always met someone whose problem was worse than ours. I say ours because this was not only Michael’s issue, but a family issue.

GrandbabyMichael is now 26 years old and we just had a large party to celebrate the ten year anniversary of his transplant which was made possible by his uncle John’s living donation. I’m happy to report that Michael is doing well, and seven months ago he and his wife celebrated the birth of their daughter, Kylie.

A Walk to Remember

Kidney disease took Phil Cooper’s father. Now he wants others to learn about kidney disease before it’s too late.


 Trenton, NJ – Phil Cooper knows what it is like to have kidney disease change your life. He watched his father, Theodore Cooper, spend over five years on dialysis before receiving a kidney transplant which extended his life five more years.

“While on dialysis, my dad did remarkably well dealing with the daily struggles that would, for many, be insurmountable challenges,” Cooper said. “He continued to travel and live life. Kidney failure doesn’t have to be the end of life.”

Phil, his family, and many employees from his Lawrenceville-based family owned and operated pest control company honored Theodore’s life by taking part in this year’s Central NJ Kidney Walk.

Cooper Pest Solutions, started by Theodore in 1955, raised over $2,700 for the National Kidney Foundation by raffling baskets, recruiting teammates, and sending out emails to friends and families, hoping to raise not just money, but also awareness.

“The majority of people with kidney disease don’t know they have it, that’s why we need to get the word out,” said Cooper. “By getting involved we’ll continue to help the members of community that are affected by kidney disease and kidney failure.”

HP Makes It Matter

At HP, they say if you’re going to do something, Make It Matter.

HP_2103It was a message HP employees took to heart last month, when over 200 staff members registered for the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Kidney Walks.

With HP CEO Meg Whitman and HP Board Member Ann Livermore leading the charge as the Bay Area Corporate Walk Chairs, HP teams have collectively raised over $73,000 in support of the National Kidney Foundation – making them the top corporate team in the nation.

“Of course this cause is personal for me, but when we look more broadly across HP we have many employees who have kidney disease or have friends or family members who have been impacted by this disease,” said Livermore, a former HP Executive Vice President who received a kidney transplant in 2005. “That experience opened my eyes to how many people are impacted by kidney disease in this country… The cost of kidney disease is monumental, but most significantly is the toll it takes on American lives. I was fortunate enough to receive a kidney transplant. That is not the case for many people on the waiting list.”

In California alone, more than 50,000 people receive dialysis treatment for kidney failure and 17,500 are on the waiting list for a life-saving kidney transplant. It is estimated that 1 in 9 Californians have kidney disease, and most don’t know it because symptoms usually appear late in the disease’s progression.

Independent of their team’s Kidney Walk efforts, HP also contributed $10,000 as a Platinum Sponsor for both the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Kidney Walks.

“At HP we say, if you are going to do something, Make it Matter,” said Whitman. “With 73 million Americans at risk for developing kidney disease, we know that supporting the National Kidney Foundation’s awareness, prevention and treatment programs can indeed make it matter.”