By Yenny Love
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is literally life changing, and in my brother Anthony’s case, it was life-threatening. CKD doesn’t happen all of a sudden. It’s a silent disease that slowly damages your kidneys and weakens your body. It often has no symptoms until the disease is very advanced. Despite this, I must admit the heavy guilt that I feel. I should have seen the changes in Anthony’s behavior, I should have investigated deeper the reasons why he was failing classes and slurring his words. We just assumed that he was not studying enough and being lazy. Little did we know that Anthony’s circulatory system was full of toxic chemicals, unable to be filtered by his kidneys and killing him slowly.
I remember Anthony undergoing emergency hemodialysis, with a catheter in his neck. My mother was shocked when she came into the room and saw her son’s blood going from a tube into a giant machine filtering his blood. Soon after that we opted for peritoneal dialysis. Anthony wanted to graduate with his high school class and peritoneal dialysis was more manageable for his schedule—he could still attend school and have some control over his day. We began weekly visits to the dialysis center for training, received a ton of pills, and scheduled follow up appointments. Our entire family changed our way of eating. After all, we’re in this together. The hardest food to give up was pizza! But Anthony’s health is way more important.
It was very challenging for Anthony to return to school. He lost a lot of weight and became very weak, and it was difficult for him to concentrate. He even needed a cane in order to walk. The dialysis machine became a part of Anthony’s life, every day from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM. We all struggled to keep up with the schedule, cutting family functions short and limiting Anthony’s first love, Judo.
Before we knew it, Anthony was graduating. We were so proud of him! Not only did he make it through his senior year—he even attended prom while on dialysis—he also documented his experience with kidney failure to share with the world for his senior project.
Anthony has always remained very optimistic about life–and he is definitely a fighter. Determined not to let kidney disease beat him, Anthony fought back with diligence and commitment. He did not use the disease as an excuse; he did not feel sorry for himself nor did he allow anyone to feel pity for his situation. Anthony knew that the only way to stay alive was by being positive and taking all the steps necessary to get his health back on track. Most importantly, Anthony had the unconditional love and support of our close-knit family.
Of course, it only made sense for our family to do everything in our power to save our little brother’s life. My brother Wilkis, who has a seven-year-old daughter (and was awaiting the birth of his second child at the time), and I both went for testing in order to see if either of us was a good match to be Anthony’s donor. It turned out that both of us are blood type O, which is compatible with Anthony. I am so grateful and proud that Wilkis decided to move forward with the next round of testing. If any of the tests indicated he wouldn’t be a good match, then it would be my turn. Wilkis passed all the tests with flying colors. I can only imagine the stress Wilkis must have been feeling, especially being a father.
I can still see the worried faces of my mother, aunts, uncles and even some of Anthony’s teachers crowded in the hospital room the day of the surgery. Wilkis’s friends and colleagues paid concerned visits to the hospital. I couldn’t rest and was full of worry at the thought of both of my little brothers going into major surgery. I still get anxious thinking about it today. Fortunately, the surgery was a success and both of my brothers are doing so well.
Anthony is in his first year at Ramapo University where he is majoring in psychoanalysis. He is careful to take his transplant medications and to keep himself healthy. Besides living a normal life, Anthony is working towards becoming a motivational speaker. He is particularly interested in sharing his story with teens that are going through similar experiences. After all, he knows firsthand how important it is to have a positive attitude. If anyone is interested in having Anthony visit their school/university, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wilkis is also feeling great. He is a very busy father with another child on the way and teaching music production and engineering classes at Itec Studios. Wilkis is so thrilled that he was able to donate a kidney to save our brother.
To read part one of Yenny Love’s story about family and kidney disease click here.