Putting it mildly, Karen Raymer has been through the wringer and then some the last few years. She reads this column in the Clear Lake (Calif.) Observer American. “What I have is polycystic kidney disease,” said 44-year-old Raymer. “It’s a genetic disease that gets passed down and there’s a 50-50 chance my boys have it.”
Her mother, who also had the disease, had to have her swollen kidneys removed years ago. Her mother’s kidneys had weighed a combined 65 pounds.
Raymer first learned of her own kidney problems at 25 after a cyst ruptured. Later, in her mid-’30s, she had to quit working because of being unable to drive a car without experiencing severe back pain. By 2009, Raymer had pain there almost constantly because her kidneys were grossly swollen and pinching other internal organs.
“It was like being pregnant all the time,” she said. “My kidney functioning was deteriorating and I couldn’t do hardly anything with my children. After just walking down the street to get the mail, for instance, I’d have to have my husband come pick me up because I was (physically) wiped out.”
In 2009, like her mother years before, she had both kidneys removed (hers weighing a combined ten pounds) and began dialysis treatment three times a week. In addition, the surgeon accidentally nicked a nerve in her leg, which meant she had to walk using a cane for about a year. The numbness in her leg contributed to her falling and damaging her right knee, and that led to arthritis in the knee. It took months for her body to adjust to being without kidneys. She couldn’t keep food down. She has twice fought congestive heart failure. Her name has been placed on a kidney transplant list.
Even with these challenges, Raymer remains positive: “For one, my relationship with my husband has improved because of having gone through such traumatic experiences as getting my kidneys taken out and being unable to walk. We love each other more. My husband has been there for me.”
She urged readers to seriously consider donating a kidney. “I’m trying to raise awareness about it,” she said. “If I can live without two kidneys, anyone can live with just one. Having one kidney doesn’t affect your lifestyle a bit.” She said people don’t have to know of a potential recipient before donating a kidney.