One Walk Begins a Journey

National Team Spotlight: Team Aetna

Thanks to one inspiring woman, Team Aetna has made a name for themselves at the National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Walk.

For Itty Beck, becoming involved with the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) was no question. At the age of 11, her brother Justin Beck was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.  The diabetes caused many health issues, and Justin was forced to undergo a kidney transplant at the age of 30 and a pancreas transplant 3 years later.

Having witnessed how the transplant changed her brother’s life, Itty knew she had to pay it forward.

Christine, Justin, Itty in 2014

Christine, Justin, Itty in 2014

“Once I saw how the transplant changed my brother’s life, I knew I wanted to donate. But the timing was never right and I wasn’t fully aware of how to make that happen,” said Beck.

Through a mutual friend, Itty learned of a woman named Christine awaiting a kidney transplant, and jumped at the opportunity to see if she was a match. Unfortunately, Itty was not a match for Christine but UPMC Montefiore hospital suggested the two women participate in a kidney exchange program.  On December 27, 2012, Itty was approved to be a donor. And within two days, matches were found with 10 people from all over the country participating in the swap.

With both her brother and new friend, Christine, inspiring her to take action in the fight against kidney disease, Itty searched for the right opportunity to get involved. In 2013, thanks to the support and generosity of her friends and family, Itty formed a team of 12 walkers called “Team Share Your Spare” to rally in the Pittsburgh Kidney Walk.

Team Share Your Spare in 2013

                                Team Share Your Spare in 2013

“When I learned of the walk and where it took place, I couldn’t help but think of what a perfect coincidence it was.” said Beck.  “My family and I were actually at the Pittsburgh Zoo the day that my brother started acting a little strange and we took him straight to Children’s hospital.  It was that day that would change our lives forever as he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.”What Itty did not realize was that this one walk was only the beginning of her journey with NKF. The following year, with support from her company, Aetna, Itty pursued the process of forming a corporate team.  By 2015, Itty had worked with multiple Aetna locations to form additional teams across the country, taking on the role as National Lead.

To date, Itty has spurred 15 teams across the country, totaling 150 walkers, and together raising $17,000.00.

“I thank my bosses and my management teams for allowing me take on the role of National Lead,” said Beck. “I love being that voice for my company, and having the ability to work together with Aetna employees from all over the country has been an awesome experience. I’m amazed by how many people have responded so positively.”

Justin is now 36 years old and continues to do very well. Both Christine and Itty are in great health. Itty encourages everyone who is interested in forming their own corporate team to become a leader at their workplace and “go all out.”

“I am so thankful of how much my life has improved since donating my kidney,” said Beck. “That one decision set so many others into motion and I’m so excited for the opportunities that are still to come.”

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Kidney Walk T-Shirt Quilt Tells a Story

Keepsake Theme Quilts created a custom Kidney Walk T-shirt quilt for Paulette Burks, development manager with the National Kidney Foundation serving Central Ohio. 

Paulette Burks

Paulette Burks

My Kidney Walk T-shirt Quilt tells a story centered around my three heroes: William Diggs (Grandfather), David Anderson (Uncle), & Dr. Samuel Collier Sr. (My Boyfriend’s Father). Each of their journeys is different but all of them have two common factors: chronic kidney disease & me!

I first joined the NKF family as an intern in the Cincinnati office in September 2012. As you can imagine I was overly excited to work for an organization whose mission was my passion. My grandfather was on dialysis most of my life and passed away from CKD when I was 12. Three years later my uncle was told he was in renal failure and needed to begin dialysis immediately. By the time I was an intern my uncle had been on dialysis for 7 years. I knew what CKD was and its effects on my family but I wanted to learn more.  My time as a development intern provided me the opportunity to gain more knowledge on this disease and I will forever be grateful.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t remain an intern forever so I began my search for a position with the National Kidney Foundation! I didn’t find any opportunities with NKF by the time I graduated so I ended up taking a for profit position.  BUT in September 2014 I was offered a temporary position as a Program Assistant in the Columbus, OH office! I wanted to work for NKF so bad that I risked everything by leaving a full time permanent position just to be with the organization I loved.  A few months later I met my boyfriend at a holiday party! He asked me what I did for a living and of course I went on a rant about NKF and how important it was to me. He smiled and said ironically my father is in renal failure tell me more. Since that day we’ve been inseparable all thanks to a little CKD connection.

I’ve had many ups and downs during my time with NKF. I became a permanent employee as a Program Manager who transitioned into a Development Manager. I’ve watched Sam’s dad battle this disease with many complications that have put him in and out of the hospital. Lastly, I was lucky enough to receive a call on Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 when my uncle received a kidney!

My quilt represents my journey from a volunteer, intern, and employee of the National Kidney Foundation. It is a daily reminder of the three men I personally advocate on behalf of. I am so happy that Keepsake Theme Quilts were able to bring my vision to life. Keepsake ThemeQuilts has supported NKF with our Cooking with the Stars silent auction and we appreciate their generosity.

Philly’s Native Hip Hop Artist, Freeway, Walks With Purpose

More than 3,500 people took a lifesaving step in the fight against kidney disease by participating in the National Kidney Foundation’s 14th Annual Kidney Walk on October 11th. This year’s Kidney Walk was hosted by former Roc-A-Fella Records artist and Philadelphia native MC, Freeway.

Freeway Ribbon Cutting

“My experience at the 14th Annual Kidney Walk was wonderful and the love I received from the people was breathtaking,” said Freeway. “I feel as though it’s important to educate people on early detection of kidney disease and awareness. I will continue to spread the message and I am looking forward to more events like this.”

Last month, without warning, the 37-year-old State Property MC and North Philadelphia native was diagnosed with kidney failure.

“I had a routine physical with my primary care doctor,” Freeway said. “The next week, I got a call from my doctor who told me to get to the closest emergency room because my kidney levels were off. My kidneys were failing and I didn’t even realize it. I was in tears trying to understand it all.”

Freeway is committed to raising awareness of kidney disease and ensuring Philadelphians stay on top of their kidney health.

Team Freedom Fighters

Team Philadelphia Freedom Fighters

The event, held at the Philadelphia Art Museum raised more than $400,000 to help fund awareness, prevention and treatment programs aimed at bettering the lives of kidney patients, their families and those at risk.

For more information or to participate in a Kidney Walk near you, visit www.kidneywalk.org. To learn more about kidney disease, risk factors and ways to protect your kidneys, visit, www.kidney.org.

The National Kidney Foundation is the leading organization in the U.S. dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease for hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, millions of patients and their families, and tens of millions of Americans at risk. Learn more about kidney disease and the Kidney Walk at www.kidneywalk.org.

View footage from NBC10 of Freeway at the Philadelphia Kidney Walk here: Rapper Freeway Raises Kidney Disease Awareness at Philly Kidney Walk

Two Dialysis Centers, One Kidney Walk Team

Inspired by Team Work: Satellite Healthcare at the NKF Kidney Walks

Half Orange plus half Laguna Hills, equals one dynamic Satellite Healthcare Kidney Walk team called Orange County Half and Half.

“We were all a team doing this together,” Team Captain Candice Brewer said of her team that included Satellite Healthcare’s Orange, Calif. dialysis center and Satellite Healthcare’s Laguna Hills, Calif. dialysis center.

As a Charge Nurse at the Orange dialysis center, Candice knows the importance of working together for a common goal. Every day, she works with dialysis patients and a skilled team of nephrology nurses, social workers, dietitians and patient care technicians.

Their goal in the Satellite Healthcare centers: Making Life Better for Those Living with Kidney Disease.Their goal for the Orange County NKF Kidney Walk: $4,300

Fundraising toward their goal

The team, Orange County Half and Half, reached and then exceeded their walk goal thanks to every team member’s efforts. This included restaurant fundraisers, a recycling program, social media and simply asking for help.

Every bit counts! Orange County Half and Half began collecting items to recycle months before the walk.

Every bit counts! Orange County Half and Half began collecting items to recycle months before the walk.

“I talked to staff and patients individually about it whenever I could. One patient raised over $600 himself and I was just amazed and surprised that he was getting so involved,” Candice recalled.

Cathy Wilson-Bates, an active team member, followed Candice’s lead, raising $800 in her first week.

OrangeCounty2_Restaurant

 

 

 

 

OrangeCounty3_Restaurant

Satellite Healthcare Orange and Satellite Healthcare Laguna Hills staff and their families enjoyed bonding time during a team restaurant fundraising event.

“Candice’s energy and excited-ness would just spread throughout the centers. It was a chain reaction,” Cathy said.

The team grew stronger thanks to the support of NKF’s local office, which held regular team captain group calls, walk kickoffs and visited each of the team’s centers in Southern California.

“NKF’s support helped me overcome any challenge I came across, and helped me understand how best to reach out to people. NKF’s inspirational walk video and stories made me feel like my heart was more involved,” Candice said.

One big family

Even patients and their families were excited for the walk!

Even patients and their families were excited for the walk!

As the heart of the two-center team, Candice saw the team become one big family as staff, patients and family members joined in.

“The patients felt, ‘Wow, they’re really connected.’ They didn’t see it as Laguna Hills and Orange. The patients saw the comradery and how positive that was for the greater good,” Cathy observed.

Patients on the team were proud to raise awareness about kidney disease in their community by walking alongside their dialysis center care team. That team includes dialysis nurses, patient care technicians, renal dietitians and social workers. The care team at Laguna Hills and Orange provide dialysis services through hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

OrangeCounty5_Walk

Satellite Healthcare: A part of the CKD Community

The Orange County NKF Kidney Walk was the culmination of all their hard work, and it was evident to all who put their walking shoes on.

“Attending the Kidney Walk in Orange County was a blast. I enjoyed being a team member of this strong and successful group of individuals who came together to raise funds for and awareness of kidney disease. Our Satellite Healthcare team exemplified our company’s mission and values. We are so proud to be a part of this CKD community,” said Robin Maita, Regional Vice President at Satellite Healthcare, who was one of the 91 Orange County Half and Half team members.

Half and Half team members taking a selfie at the Satellite booth.

Half and Half team members taking a selfie at the Satellite booth.

Satellite Healthcare, a not-for-profit provider of kidney dialysis services, has been a strong supporter of NKF for more than 40 years. The Satellite Healthcare National NKF Kidney Walk Team participates in 11 walks through about 30 local teams.

Satellite Healthcare has a well-recognized, enduring commitment to philanthropy and the CKD community, from funding millions of dollars in research grants to sponsoring kidney walks nationwide. Satellite is committed to advancing the standard of chronic kidney disease care so patients can enjoy a better life.

To learn more about what Satellite Healthcare, a leading nonprofit provider of kidney dialysis and related services, is doing to shape our industry and elevate the standards of patient care and innovation, visit www.SatelliteHealth.com.

Mother and Son Share Special Bond

Darla donated a kidney to her son, Tyler. Both will walk to raise kidney disease awareness at the Dallas Kidney Walk.

 Giving life to your child is an r-DallasHildebrantopportunity that comes once for most mothers; for Fort Worth resident Darla, it’s a calling that came twice.

As a teenager, her son Tyler was an active student into fitness and football. Despite being a vigilant mother, Darla never realized that Tyler was affected by kidney disease.

“He had blood pressure problems as a teenager,” said Darla. “But I never knew that high blood pressure is an indication of kidney disease.”

Tyler started getting seriously sick in 2010, with headaches and skyrocketing blood pressure. When he went to the emergency room, doctors said they didn’t know how he was still walking — Tyler’s kidneys had failed. He was placed on dialysis for survival.

“It sucked having to get my blood filtered three times a week,” Tyler said. “You were always tired and didn’t have time to do anything you wanted to do, or eat anything you wanted to eat.”

They began the process of putting Tyler on the organ wait list, a system that can take years to fulfill a person’s need for an organ. But Darla trumped the system by offering up one of her own kidneys to save her son.

“When they found out I was a match, I was so happy that I could give him my kidney,” said Darla. “I just wanted them to hurry up. I was afraid he wasn’t going to make it.”

Now, both fully recovered, Darla and Tyler have been profoundly changed by the organ donation experience.

“I have a second chance at life,” said Tyler. “I don’t take anything for granted now — everything is special, my wife, my kids, everything I have is a blessing.”

Throughout the ordeal, the family used information provided by the National Kidney Foundation to learn more about kidney disease, kidney failure, and dialysis. Now they are looking to give back.

“I am a kidney patient and a transplant patient and I want to help spread the word about organ donation,” said Tyler. “I still go back and visit the people at the dialysis clinic. There is a lot of fear and worry surrounding transplants. People just don’t know how awesome it is.”

Tyler and his mother also participate in the Dallas Kidney Walk to show their support.

“Kidney disease and organ donation is such a big part of our lives now,” Darla said. “By walking we can support research and prevention, which will help others like us in the future.”

One Woman’s Transplant Inspires Generous Outreach

r-OC-Ackerman_Carol and Mel

In 2010, a routine physical exam revealed that Melanie A’s kidney were failing, she had no symptoms.

The 19-year-old, developmentally delayed Irvine resident was diagnosed with a kidney disease known as FSGS. She only had 27% kidney function and time was running out.

“Over the course of the next two years, we watched her kidney function slowly deteriorate down to 12%,” said Carol, Melanie’s mother.

Hoping to find a donor before Melanie needed dialysis, Carol and several family members all stepped forward to donate. However, none were suitable matches.

As the search ground on, Carol started a Facebook page called “Kidney for Melanie” and asked friends and family to “like” and “share” it with everyone they knew.  The A’s also got involved with the National Kidney Foundation, speaking at events about their story and the need for organ donors.

Then, last year, Heather B., the niece in-law of Melanie’s Godfather, Mark J., stepped forward to be tested. She was a match. Heather, who is married and has three children, drove from Arizona to LA for the July 18, 2012 surgery. Heather’s kidney started working immediately after being placed in Melanie. The nurses in the hospital called it a “best-case scenario” for Melanie.

“My doctor’s goal was to go straight to transplant with no dialysis, so it felt great to be able to do that,” Melanie said. “I can eat all kinds of favorite foods now; before I was very limited and not happy about it.”

It’s been almost a year since Melanie received the kidney transplant that changed her life. The young woman is now thriving in an adult transition program, working in a department store and continuing to go to school.

The A’s are eager to share their story to help others who have to go through the organ donation process. The As, their friends and family members will be walking at this year’s Orange County Kidney Walk held on Sunday, June 2, at Aldrich Park at UC Irvine. Melanie will be cutting the ribbon to start off the event.

The Kidney Walk is a non-competitive stroll that raises funds to fight kidney disease through awareness, prevention and treatment programs. Walkers participate as individuals or form teams with family, friends or colleagues. Those interested in getting involved or supporting a walker can visit http://www.kidneywalk.org.

“We’re coming up on one year and we want to spread the message of organ donation,” said Carol.  “We know there is so much more to be done and we are blessed to be a part of it.”

Life Changing Kidney Donation for Donor and Recipient

r-LI_Chris(Huntington Station, NY) – Receiving a kidney transplant gives those with kidney failure a second chance at life, but you rarely hear how those that donate their kidneys also have their lives forever changed.

Chris M., 38, from Huntington Station, NY, knew his life would go on a different path the moment he heard that his best friend’s kidneys were starting to fail.

“The day he told me he was going to start dialysis, I picked up the phone and called the hospital to see if I could be a donor,” Chris said.

Chris, who has worked as a Hip Hop DJ and On-Air Personality for Sirus XM and groups such as Naughty by Nature, was suddenly thrust into a new world of tests, physicals, nurses and medical jargon. Eventually, it was determined that Chris was a perfect match for his friend. Nine months after his first call to the hospital, Chris donated his kidney.

“I was the only person to get tested and I was a match,” Chris said. “The thing I remember most happened just before the surgery; I met a man who had been waiting four years for a kidney. He had tested with six family members and 20 other people and no one was ever a match. That made me realize how lucky we were. “

The ability to give his friend a new life profoundly changed Chris’ own outlook. He started volunteering with the National Kidney Foundation to talk with potential donors and recipients about living donation. He also started school again hoping to become a nurse.

“It has made me see things differently. I feel like I can do more,” Chris said. “I feel I have a type of compassion that I can share in a meaningful way with people.”

As part of his outreach efforts, Chris shares his story with hundreds who attend the Long Island Kidney Walk.

“I enjoy walks because it’s important to let people know about living donation,” Chris said. “It’s a beautiful thing, you just have to find the courage to do it.”