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Tarah's story

There’s one thing scarier than waiting in an emergency room, clutching your newborn daughter to your heart — and that’s not having to wait at all.

“There’s one thing scarier than waiting in an emergency room, clutching your newborn daughter to your heart — and that’s not having to wait at all.” 

I knew that things were serious when we were rushed past the triage desk, past all the other waiting patients. In seconds, they were testing my daughter Christina, then just three weeks old. She was burning up with fever.  

She seemed so fragile at that moment. So were we, her parents. We were still grieving the loss of her twin sister, Allison, who had died in utero as a result of polycystic kidneys. And our precious Christina had been born with three kidneys — a healthy, functioning left one but a right kidney split into two, neither part of which could drain properly.  

From birth, Christina had been on antibiotics to beat back infections that could easily have overwhelmed her tiny body. But now, they hadn’t been able to stop her from getting sick. The infection had made it into her bloodstream and spread to her entire body. We were in the hospital for three weeks. 

As a renal nurse caring for people with kidney failure, what I see every day is a reminder that kidney health is a matter of life and death. Quite literally. The kidneys are a part of the body that no one really notices, or even thinks about — until they stop working.  

Oftentimes, I’m treating patients at their first session of dialysis. They’ve been completely taken off guard, because one minute they felt fine, and the next they had to be hooked up to the machine. Knowledge is power for patients like these — which is why the education and peer support offered by The Kidney Foundation is so incredibly important to their well-being.  

The choice we faced when Christina was still a baby was stark: either major surgery to remove the two, small right-side kidneys that wouldn’t drain, or an operation to open the drainage as best they could, and then monitor her closely for infections. We opted for the latter. 

For her whole childhood, we’ve had to rush Christina to care at the slightest signs of trouble. We never knew if something was a cold, a bit of flu, or the beginnings of a life-threatening infection.  

Today, my daughter is bright and energetic, active and athletic. She’s found passions and talents in mathematics and in diving, and in trouncing her family in any game of cards.  

She is living with chronic kidney disease — which means we never know entirely what the future holds. But there is one thing that I know for sure. We won’t be alone, whatever we have to face.