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Kerry’s Story

"I was born blind and up until about 11 years old. That's all we thought it was..."
I was legally blind from birth, while I still had some of my vision, it required glasses and larger text size for me to be able to see, but I could still identify shapes and colours. My brother was born blind as well, so I never felt alone in my experience. While it had its difficulties, I still lived my life as any kid did up until the age of 11. When I entered grade five or six, I started getting really ill. I was nauseous all the time, fatigued, and couldn’t concentrate. And the symptoms just kept getting worse and worse. I went to get a blood test and we discovered my kidneys were failing and I had kidney disease. 

I had to go to a hospital every week for peritoneal dialysis before we learned how to do it at home. As my dialysis progressed, my eyes started having these blackouts. I lost more and more of my vision, resulting in the removal of one of my eyes. It took away my ability to see colors. I loved to color and draw but I couldn’t any longer. This really weighed down on me and my family at the time. But I found a passion for writing instead.  
When talk began of a transplant, I was very lucky that my father was tested a match for me. I know not every person can find a match that quickly and I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t take that for granted. When you're 12, I mean really at any age, your parents, if they're alive, they don’t want to see their own child going through health challenges. Throughout my kidney disease journey, they felt helpless to watch what was happening to me, but the transplant was a way they could help me. I didn't have to go on the list, and it was kept in the family. So, within a year after I started dialysis, I received a kidney from my dad, and my body accepted it. I was feeling better by the following year. 

Today, I’m 38 years of age and trying to help others who like myself are going through their own journey with kidney disease. I am an active volunteer with The Kidney Foundation’s Peer Support program. Listening to other people’s stories and sharing my experience with them really does help to give people hope. And I get a chance to hear so many people’s stories. I think it's great program! I also share my knowledge and experience in a podcast with my brother called Outlook on Radio Western. On the podcast my brother and I both talk about kidney disease from the perspective of being blind, growing up as blind siblings as well as interview people about their own experiences, stories, and outlooks. 

It's been 25 years since I received my kidney transplant. I look back at the stories I have heard of the other people going through kidney failure all these years and it has helped you to grow. It grows your empathy and your understanding of the world. And so, I think it's powerful to hear other people's stories and to share your own. And I think it brings people together and it forms connections. And I think it's important so. I want to it. You know, it feels good. It gives you something to do this in a world where you very often feel helpless and it's something at least.
 
This year I’m celebrating the 25th anniversary of my transplant. I look back on all the stories I have heard about other people’s journey with kidney failure, and it has helped me to grow. It has grown my empathy and my understanding of the world. I think it's powerful to hear other people's stories and to share my own. It really brings people together and helps form connections and to be honest it feels good.