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Mauricia's Story

Mauricia's motto is: your struggles shouldn't define you; they should motivate you.

It was 2014 and my doctor had just told me my kidneys were failing. Two years prior, I had adopted my son Louis as a single mom. Up to that point I had been struggling with lupus flare ups and trying desperately to stay alive. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that has no known cause or cure. My immune system cannot tell the difference between normal cells and foreign bodies and attacks my internal organs. In my case lupus was attacking my kidneys and had been attacking them for the past thirty years.

I knew my kidneys would fail eventually, but the sudden turn of events didn't make sense at the time. I was fine. I felt healthy. What was happening to my body? I resisted my doctor's advice to get a biopsy and I kept delaying the OR date to have a fistula installed (the connection between an artery and vein that would allow blood flow for dialysis). I was afraid that the operation would leave me unable to take care of my son or worse, leave him without a mother and back into foster care.

Eventually I discovered the reason for my rapid kidney deterioration. For months I had been taking the wrong dose of my lupus medication, prednisone, which keeps my immune system at bay. Unfortunately, without it, my immune system waged a war against my kidneys and won. What should I do next? I could have wallowed in self-pity or anger, but what would that have accomplished? My kidneys would still be damaged and my life at risk. I had to push my fears aside and acquiesce to my doctor's requests, for my son's sake. He needed a mother, so I needed to stay alive. I started dialysis in 2015, one year after I was first diagnosed with kidney failure.

I couldn't spend five to six hours three times a week, going back and forth from the hospital for dialysis so, I decided to dialyze at home so I could take care of my son. This meant training on the dialysis machine at the nephrology clinic. To allow blood to flow through the dialyzer to clean my blood of toxins, I needed to create an access point or cannulate. I had to put, not one, but two, of what I can only describe as, the largest needles I had ever seen in my life, into my arm. The first time I had to cannulate my hand shook uncontrollably. I kept thinking, how am I ever going to get through this? At the time, the clinic was filled with other patients who were at different stages in the training process. One kind gentleman in the chair opposite me tried to calm my nerves by saying, "It will get easier with time". I smiled and tried to put the needle in without destroying all the hard work the surgeons had done to get me to this point.

As the needle slowly punctured the skin of my forearm, images of my mother came to mind. She was a diabetic and had to take insulin shots daily. I never once thought about how difficult that task must have been for her. Pinching the skin of her abdomen, anticipating the pain, then pushing the needle in anyway, because she knew she had to. What did she feel or think in those moments? Was she afraid? Did her hands shake like mine? She never showed any fear. She simply got it done and went about her day. I wished she was with me back then. To give me advice. To tell me it was all going to be ok. Or, just be silent at my side so I knew someone was there to pick me up if I fall, as she always was. Thinking about her strength gave me the courage to continue pushing that needle in.

I got both needles in that first day, then the next day and the next. It's been eight years now and I have been cannulating every other day without flinching. I would be lying if I said things were fine after those first few days of training. I have had some terrifying moments but, I have learned to take the good with the bad and learn from every experience. My kidneys may have failed but, like my mother, I will continue moving forward without flinching.

My mission is to bring parents living with chronic illnesses together, so we can help each other and ensure our children live normal, healthy lives. Rather than being patients suffering from an invisible illness, we can all be survivors, thriving, not in spite of, but because of our illness. My Motto is your struggles shouldn't define you; they should motivate you.