Throw in the Towel

May 25, 2017
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My uncle Jeff was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease about ten years ago. Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disorder that causes abnormal cysts to develop on the kidneys. Seeing as this is a genetic disorder, my family wasn’t too surprised when they found out because my grandpa and many other relatives suffered from this as well. He was incredibly strong in those ten years and he taught me that I can get through anything if I don’t give up.


If you know me and my family then you know I don’t see my extended family much, only about twice a year due to conflicting schedules, so I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t something wrong with Jeff’s kidneys. He had been having problems since before I was born but had never gotten a diagnosis. He could live a normal life for the most part. He worked, raised his daughter, and got married again, though there were setbacks like not being able to have a variety in his diet, and having to do dialysis. Jeff didn’t start doing dialysis until about five years ago and it slowed him down quite a bit. It made him sluggish, he lost weight, and he didn’t get a lot of sleep. I remember my mom and Jeff both telling me stories about dialysis and feeling like I would never be able to do that but then thinking If he can put himself through this multiple times a day, then I can get through a presentation or whatever was causing me stress or anxiety.

Over the years Jeff’s kidneys got even worse. He was on the transplant list, but was pretty far down because there were so many before him that hadn’t found their matches yet. He continued to do dialysis, which was helping to make it easier to live with, but not doing much to heal him. The company he worked for closed so he lost his job, causing stress for him, and if you know anything about bad kidneys then you know that stress is not good. He had to miss family functions so that he could rest but when he did show up, he ate the food that he was allowed to, and joined in the conversation, making jokes and it amazed me that he could be so positive.
My mom was getting anxious about six months ago. Jeff had been on the transplant list for about seven years at that time and wasn’t getting much higher on the list, so my mom did what she does best; she turned to Facebook. After getting many messages that we would “be in their prayers,” but no luck for a donor, she called her ex husband Dan and asked him what his blood type is--matching blood types is the first step to finding a match--and he ended up having the same blood type as my uncle. He told my mom that he would be happy to get tested to see if he could match fully. He went to multiple doctors appointments with my sister, got poked and prodded, had blood tests, x-rays, and had to go on a strict diet to get his blood pressure down. After about a month of this, he found out he was a match and they scheduled the surgery. They had the transplant surgery in February and after about a month of recovery each--and some internal bleeding on Dan’s part--both are doing great.

This whole ride taught me multiple things. It taught me that if you believe enough and never give up, it will turn out right in the end (as cliche as that sounds). I also learned that some people will stick by you in rough times but others won’t. The woman that Jeff married when he was sick left him not too long ago because she “didn’t want to be with a sick person anymore.” This was completely shocking to all of us because we were under the impression that she loved him enough to stay. Regardless of that hardship, he stayed positive and kept going. I am very proud to be related to such a strong person that has taught me so much about myself and others around me with his struggles.

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