Jimmy and I met in college back in 1995, but we didn’t start dating until 2000. Six months into our relationship, we found out that his kidneys were failing at the age of 25. We thought our life was over. He was so young, so healthy, with no family history, no high blood pressure or diabetes. How could this happen?
In February of 2008, Jimmy received the gift of life from his father and 5 months later we got married. Those seven years, between Jimmy’s diagnosis and his kidney transplant, were pure agony. During this time we discovered the National Kidney Foundation, who helped give us the strength to continue the fight. We decided to start a team for Kidney Walk to bring awareness to kidney disease and help raise funds to help the foundation further its mission. Since our first Kidney Walk in 2007 our team, ‘Team Yan’, has raised over $260,000. For us, it wasn’t the money that changed our life it was the love we got from friends, family and coworkers. Some volunteered to get tested to donate their kidney, others offered their blood if Jim needed a transfusion. I was so overwhelmed that even though Jim was getting sicker each day, our hope and spirits were building quicker than his kidney was failing. It truly amazed us to see people come forward to support us, even those that were unexpected.
Unfortunately, in January of 2011, Jimmy lost the donated kidney from his Father – he never made it to the 3 year mark of this extraordinary gift. Due to an illness after the first transplant, he had to get a blood transfusion that contained antibodies that attacked his kidney. He has now been on dialysis since April 15, 2011 and we have had over 20 friends, family and coworkers go to get tested. But with his antibody issue, the likelihood of finding that perfect donor will be very hard. Despite this new, we have not given up, and are doing everything we can to find a donor for Jim. We have had friends and family sign up as Organ Donors, we have educated everyone on the importance of their kidneys. By giving back, we hope and pray that a miracle will come our way. We live each day like it’s our last, and love every moment that we share together. Times like these have taught us not to take anything in life for granted.
In 2000, kidney disease was not a widely known disease, so there were very limited resources for us and we had to do a lot of research for ourselves which was the most difficult part of our journey. Today, NKF has become the organization to go to. They have a plethora of information with an amazing staff to direct you. Today Jimmy and I are committed to working with them to educate people about kidney health and organ donation, especially minority groups. I am currently on the Board of Directors for NKF, and can truly say that this organization has grown substantially since I first joined. I am proud to be part of this organization, and to try to find a cure for those suffering like my husband. NKF is part of my family and whatever I can do to help, I will be there.