We’ve lived in Midvale for about a year now. And a few months after we moved I met a very sweet lady from church. Her name, Christine Cortez. I really didn’t know much about Christine, but each time I saw her I learned a little more. And every time I heard more, I just became more in awe of her as a person and as a daughter of God. She is one of the strongest people I know and such a sweet friend.
My goal in this blog post is to educate more people on the everyday life of those waiting for kidney transplants and to maybe (hopefully) find a new kidney for Christine. I hope you enjoy her beautiful smile as much as I do!
If you are interested in finding out if you are a match for Christine there is info at the bottom of the blog post.
Here is Christine’s story…
“My eyes spring open. What times is it? Oh, the alarm is going off again….I twist to the right and prop myself up. I look at the flashing light trying to make sense of the digitized letters on the screen as my eyes adjust to the light. It reads, “Low Drain.”
I need to move. I press the arrow down button to see how much fluid I need to get out. Maybe I should stand up. I don’t want to. I’m still half asleep and so tired. I push my legs off to the right and feel the carpet crunch beneath my toes. I need to be careful not to step and trip on my catheter cord. I wait as I move and gyrate my body to encourage the drain and finally the machine starts to drain normally. It will be at least 20 minutes of Richard Simmons worthy calisthenics before I can lie down again. My eyes shut and my head bobs as I struggle to stay awake. Yes, it is possible to fall asleep standing up, it’s a theory I’ve tested many times.
Okay, the drain is over and now I can lie down as it fills me back up. Only problem is after that 20 minute aerobic workout session I am now more than wide awake. And so I lay there, staring at the ceiling, thinking about what it would be like to sleep at night without having to be attached to my dialysis machine. I would be so free! There wouldn’t be a cord coming out of my lower abdomen attached to an oversized Nintendo. I wouldn’t have to lay here tethered like a dog; I could toss and turn all night without having to worry about pulling my catheter out of my body.
It would be so weird. I’ve been doing this for nearly four years and it’s become second nature now. The whole thing used to scare me and now I’m pretty comfortable with the process, with just enough respect for it to keep me safe. Okay, time to stop thinking about all this. I walk down this road quite a bit and if I stay on it too long I’ll freak myself out. I’ll probably be awake till the next drain cycle now, (one hour and twenty six minutes) strapped to my artificial kidney. I do this every night for ten hours straight and it brings to mind one of the most basic truths of mortality, Love & Hate.
Obviously, I’m extremely grateful to be alive and still have the opportunity to learn, grow and to change. But, on the opposite end of the spectrum is a life I wouldn’t wish on even my worst enemy, a life without any kidney function, zero. I don’t think people can fully understand the implication of what that means so let me put it this way. I haven’t peed since 2009! Not a drop, the word urine does not exist in my vocabulary and so there lies my problem. I have tons of toxins in my blood and no filtration system to get them out and if I were to live even a day without dialysis I would be that much closer to death. To think that something as innocent as wanting to have a baby could have caused such havoc on my body just takes my breath away. On top of that, I struggle with lupus, an auto-immune disease that turns my own body’s immune system against me. The combination of the two led to my eventual kidney failure. I tell myself to stop and remind myself that everything is okay. I’m still here.
And then I remember my blessings and take a deep breath. Heavenly Father is in charge and I trust him. Someday I will have the health that he’s promised me and I know that day will come in his time. My head is spinning, my palms are wet and my mouth is dry. I’m trying not to panic and tell myself to get a grip. Girl, you’ve been through a lifetime of change and you know that God has been there all along and will continue to be there for you.
I’ve been a witness to miracles. I reach out in the dark and feel for one of them and there he is sleeping right next to me. One of my miracles! I never expected to find a soul mate, my perfect match during the worst time in my life. Five years ago, my world fell apart and everything I knew was re-written. My high school sweetheart and husband of seven years died. I watched him wither away and deteriorate right in front of me over a span of seven months. One day he had a tiny bump on his back and the next he was diagnosed with melanoma and he was gone. That’s how it felt. What the heck happened!?
Everyone was shocked, as most had assumed that I would have died on him first, and in all reality I was under the same assumption. Sadly, during this time, I was in the process of losing my first kidney transplant. It’s a little unbelievable but before he passed away he had given me his kidney. A small piece of him, keeping me alive, cleaning my blood and now even that was on its way out.
Well, it’s all over now. I’m here alive and happy now because of my second husband Javier. I reach for his shoulder and give it a squeeze, tears spilling over. Heavenly Father sent him to me with a big bow on a silver platter! Right when I started hemo-dialysis, something else happened. Javier realized he cared for me and that I cared for him. At the doorstep of death, love had bloomed. In the midst of my grieving and sorrow a small, gentle kiss planted on the cheek of a girl who no more than a few hours ago was on her death bed cleared my heart and taught me that I could love again stronger than I had ever loved before.
The roller coaster ride that was my first marriage had been a preparation for my true love, Javi. All this, after being so sick with everyone waiting for me to die. Nope, that’s not the plan, not yet! God has given me a second family and second chance at life!”
A huge thank you to Alex Crabtree, for making Christine look stunning!! (Alex Crabtree: Hair Stylist & Make-Up Artist)
I had to get one of her cute baby bump!
What is Dialysis?
Peritoneal Dialysis is a way to remove waste products from your blood when your kidneys aren’t able to do the job adequately. During peritoneal dialysis the blood vessels in your abdominal lining, or peritoneum, do the work for your kidneys. This is accomplished by filling the peritoneal cavity with dialysate fluid (basically, sugar water). Once the peritoneal cavity is filled, the dialysate fluid “dwells” in the abdominal cavity for a period of time and pulls toxins and excess fluid from the blood stream into the abdomen. After dwelling for a sufficient amount of time, you then drain the abdominal cavity and get rid of the excess fluid and toxins and repeat the cycle several times throughout the day and night.
If you are interested in getting tested to donate a kidney, you can contact IHC. My transplant coordinator is Christy Baker. You can reach her or the transplant department at 801-507-3380. Tell them you are interested in donating a kidney for Christine Cortez, they will help you with the process. Ask them all the questions you can think of. Remember, they will not share your information with me; I cannot be a go between. They want to make sure your donation is not forced or coerced. If you want to share the process with me you can! Thank you for your prayers and good wishes.