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Two Sides of a Kidney

When you’re a nurse and have four kids under the age of seven, feeling tired can be par for the course. But Theresa Caldron’s fatigue wouldn’t go away and was accompanied by a host of other symptoms. Intrinsically, she knew something wasn’t right, and after two years of repeated trips to the doctor’s office, she still had no answers. “I know my body, and I was sure something was going on,” says Theresa.

The situation came to a head for her at age 38 when she ended up in the ER with renal failure. When the doctor biopsied her kidney, Theresa finally got some answers. She was diagnosed with Wegener’s granulomatosis; now known as Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA).

Because of the renal failure, Theresa was put on the kidney transplant list. Shortly thereafter, she got word that a donor kidney was available, but her hopes were dashed when it was determined that it wasn’t a fit for her. The same thing happened two more times. “Even my nurses were crying when the third donor kidney was a ‘no-go,’” said Theresa, “but I was at peace with it. I felt that God had a reason.” For Theresa, the fourth time was a charm. She had no complications during or after the surgery.

When someone receives a life-giving organ, there’s another story to be told. Theresa’s kidney donor was Madison, a 19 year-old woman who met a violent end at the hands of another. Madison’s mother wanted to meet Theresa. During their time together, she shared that Madison had recently renewed her driver’s license, and when she returned home proudly showed her mom that she had registered to become an organ donor.

Madison’s story is partly what motivated Theresa and her husband Tony to get involved with the American Kidney Fund. They wanted a way to pay Madison’s gift forward. And while their intent was to give back, they have received so much in return. They found a supportive community and learned so much about living with and treating kidney disease.

Theresa credits the support of her husband, her now mostly adult children, her in-laws, and her parents for helping her on this journey. Theresa now wants to use what she’s learned to pay it forward again, this time by supporting people on their GPA journey. She hopes to remind everyone to listen to their bodies: “You know your body. If something’s not right, ask questions and don’t stop asking until you get answers.”.