EDUCATING AND SUPPORTING BAY AREA KIDNEY PATIENTS

My name is Iris Corina; I am a 65-year-old single mother of two lovely daughters, with three wonderful grandsons, and two younger sisters, all of whom supported me during a very challenging period of my life.   I enjoy cooking, eating, making jewelry, and spending time with family and friends. After working for the State of California for approximately 25 years, I retired in 2003.


Less than a year ago, on June 9, 2014, my life changed, and I was given the gift of continued life. But wait, there is more to the story. 

As an adult, I had High Blood Pressure, as did most of my relatives, in fact; I began blood pressure medications while still a teenager. On September 4th 1967, I received a blood transfusion after the delivery of my oldest daughter.  However, it was not until 1999, that I heard a Television announcement, which warned recipients of a blood transfusion during that certain period, to be checked for Hepatitis C (Hep C).  Shocked and frightened, my blood was tested and yes, I was infected. (Editors’ note: Hep C is a virus which infects the liver.)


Hepatitis C Brings Luck

By Iris Corina

Now I am an even stronger Advocate for those facing renal insufficiency.  I attend events sponsored by The Bay Area Association for Kidney Patients (BAAKP), where support is given free of charge to people who need information and encouragement. Kidney Patients can express their concerns and ask questions that may not have been answered during medical appts with their Physicians.

BAAKP supports every race, and my personal goal is to continue outreach to my community. (Black and African Americans suffer from Kidney failure at a rate 3 times higher than other races.) I also work through the Wayfinder Foundation, supporting minority women and 18 Reasons, a nonprofit food education organization.  

Since my Kidney Transplant, I am more active than ever before, and I am enjoying life. I recently decided that I am going to wake up happy every day. The Rainbow is still showing all of its colors for my life. 


In the early1990’s, my GP had referred me to a Nephrologist because of high blood creatinine tests.  This first Nephrologist said there was some renal disease, but that no treatment was required. He said I was to drink plenty of water and keep my weight down.  Drinking water was easy; keeping my weight down was a problem.  I ballooned to 231 pounds by 2013.  In 2013, this doctor announced I would have to go on dialysis.  

I panicked and became very angry with my Nephrologist and various physicians. I trusted them to take care of me—why did they not help and direct me?  I didn’t know what caused my renal failure; however, the journey to my present had begun.   

So, I changed doctors and was introduced to Dr. Hussain Gilani, who advised me to lose weight, and provided me with websites showing eating plans and other helpful information. He ran lab tests and helped me to decide when to begin dialysis.  At WellBound in Emeryville, the nurses and staff taught me how to perform home peritoneal dialysis, also helping with coping mechanisms and dietary support.  I was not the best patient and wanted to give up at times, but they, along with my doctor, kept working with me. Eventually, I believed and realized that dialysis was my only option to keep living. I began dialysis at home on February 14, 2014.  This was a very stressful time but thank God; I had the winning combination of family, friends, and wonderful medical professionals.
 
(Through this, I learned that you must take time to look up your condition online, and speak with your physician regarding your concerns. Make a list of questions before you visit the doctor and get all of them answered.  If the doctor does not have time to answer your questions, get another doctor, after all, this is your life!)

In June of 2013, even before I started dialysis, Dr. Gilani referred me to California Pacific Medical Center Kidney Transplant Surgeons (CPMC), which was the greatest thing that could have happened to me at that time. The CPMC staff was pleasant, efficient, understanding and so organized that I was very shortly on the list.  I did not know where I was on the list because I didn’t know to ask. I had met people who had been waiting on dialysis for 8 years, so I expected to be on dialysis for a long time.

 On June 9, 2014, at 1:30 am, I received a phone call from Vicki Martin, R.N., who was my pre-transplant coordinator and angel. All along, she had worked with me, listened when I cried or was depressed, and encouraged me when I wanted to give up. When I needed to complete a test, she encouraged me and supported me in a way that I will never forget.  In the middle of that night, Vicki said, “we have a kidney for you.”   (Question from the editors: does every kidney offer come in the middle of the night?)

Unbelievably, I would be getting a kidney that day.  I had been on dialysis for five months and nine days!  Later, I realized that if I had not received that Hepatitis C contaminated blood transfusion so long ago, I probably would not have received a kidney so quickly in 2014. You see, the kidney donor also had Hepatitis C, and my own infection with the same virus put me close to the top of the “list” because many recipients will decline this kidney.  I would like to encourage others who have Hep C to accept such a kidney; it will change your life.

In an instant, I felt sad for the family who lost someone they loved, happy that I would receive a kidney, and then disbelief at my good fortune.   Never in my life had I felt so many emotions at one time!

It’s not all a bed of roses, and there are still trying times in my life because of the transplant but I would not trade the journey for anything.   We have to go through the rain in order to enjoy the rainbow.

My rainbow is my belief in God, my wonderful family, my loving friends, the physicians, and all of the staff at WellBound, California Pacific Medical Center, and last but not least, the BAAKP, which offers support for patients in all stages of chronic kidney disease.

I serve as a patient advocate for WellBound and California Pacific Medical Center, where I meet with patients either in person or by telephone.  I share my experiences before dialysis, during dialysis, and after kidney transplant. I’ve never met some of the people from these phone calls, but they are happy to talk with someone who understands what they are going through.  I pass along the encouragement given to me by my family, friends and the many medical professionals to help these new patients see the rainbow and let them know that there is life during and after dialysis with a transplant. 

UPDATE 2019: Hello again.  It's been over 5 years since my Kidney Transplant.