All the little boy wanted for Christmas was his two front teeth. Karen Raymer of Hidden Valley Lake, California, would like just one kidney this holiday season. I initially featured her in 2012 and recently telephoned to learn of her progress. Her response moved me to dedicate the next two columns to her and to the plight of other Americans seeking a kidney transplant.
To refresh your memory: Raymer, 48, discovered she had polycystic kidney disease at age 25. Ten years later, she quit working because severe back pain had made driving to work nearly impossible. By 2009, her kidneys were swollen and uncomfortably pinching other internal organs.
“It was like being pregnant all the time,” she said four years ago. “My kidney function was deteriorating and I couldn’t do hardly anything with my children. After walking down the street to get the mail, I’d have to have my husband come pick me up because I was (physically) wiped out.” Doctors had to remove both swollen kidneys. They weighed 10 pounds each.
In addition, a surgeon during the operation nicked a leg nerve, which created numbness, which caused her to stumble and badly damage a knee, causing arthritis in the knee. After starting dialysis treatment, she fought off congestive heart failure.
Of her lifestyle today, she said, “I go to dialysis for three hours, three times a week. I’m supposed to have only 32 ounces of fluid daily. Soup or ice cream counts as fluid. I can’t have much potassium because too much will kill me. I take binders when I eat to pull the phosphorus out of food.”
Raymer said her brother wants to donate a kidney but can’t because of a different genetic disease he has. She said, “I’ve had a couple people try donating. There’s an online questionnaire that can tell you if you’re a candidate for the next step. Others trying to donate have even made it through the blood work (step). I have a friend from Kenya. The first time we met 10 years ago, he said God was telling him that he (the friend) was going to give me one of his kidneys. Finally, this July, he said, ‘This is the time to get the blood work done and go through all the tests.'”
What Raymer emotionally experienced from then on illustrates the ups and downs kidney transplant seekers often face. You’ll have to read more next week.