(Left to Right: Betsy Calloway and Erin Calloway)
After reading Social Revolution’s blog titled, Grateful for my health, I became inspired to write about my experience with my family’s health. During my sister’s freshman year of college, she was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) also known as kidney disease. While she was sick she went through many emotions but after acceptance came determination and positivity. Here is part of her story :
“I was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), which is a progressive kidney disease that will eventually lead to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). I was devastated, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and I didn’t believe it was happening to me. I was angry. I remember thinking to myself, I’m only 21…21, how could this be?”
The first two years of my treatment were the hardest. We attacked the kidney disease full force. Due to illness, I had to drop out of college and go on disability from my job. Kidney disease was not the only battle that I was fighting. I was severely obese. At my peak, I weighed 348lbs. I under went gastric bypass surgery. By the end of 2005, I had lost a total of 160 lbs. Having the surgery was one of the best decisions of my life and it quite possibly helped save my life.
I am an example of what one person can accomplish through hard work, determination, a positive spirit, and allowing others to support and love you. I believe that you should not let a disease define who you are or dictate your life for you. You have to keep living; you have to keep pushing on. I experienced and lived through the whole cycle of kidney disease. My journey continues and the future looks good!
Imagine what you were doing at 21. Were you going to the club for the first time, enjoying your first legal drink, or playing beer pong? Betsy was 21 years old when she was informed that her kidneys were failing and only functioning at 40%. Apparently, her kidneys began to fail when she was a child, but since she suffered from childhood obesity the doctors attributed many of her childhood health problems to her weight and never tested her for kidney disease.
Did you know? Kidney disease often has no symptoms. Millions of Americans don’t know they have kidney disease. – American Kidney Fund (AKF)
During my sister’s illness I watched her work full-time, while attending school, and fighting for her life with a smile on her face at all times. Only those that were close to Betsy knew her struggles, others were shocked – finding it hard to believe that someone could have such a positive outlook while on dialysis 3 times a week, taking over 15 types of medication a day, and visiting the doctor regularly for blood test. Betsy was determined to beat kidney disease and on December 21, 2007, I donated my right kidney to Betsy. It was the greatest gift I could give to anyone especially my best friend.
Social Revolution’s blog post, emphasized the fact that you should appreciate your health because there is always someone who is in a worse position. I agree with this statement and would add that there is a lesson or experience to be gained from every trial in our life. Though it may be difficult to interrupt the lesson during the time of struggle, if one is patient, obedient, and grateful the lesson can be learned. Today Betsy is thriving, taking good care of my kidney and giving back through her non-profits, Kidney Kare 4 Youth & Adolescence, founded in 2008 and Neighbors United. Both organization are geared towards improving the lives of the community through awareness, opportunity, and education.
Betsy’s story is not alone. There are millions of men, women and children suffering from kidney disease and childhood obesity. Becoming an organ donor is safe and easy. It’s a gift that brings life and in my opinion the greatest most selfless gift one can give. Through my gift of my kidney, Betsy has been able to encourage others through her story. To find out more and what you can do to help join Neighbors United Facebook page.