Sponsored by Astellas Pharma US, Inc.
Diagnosed with kidney disease at age 14, Nikki faced the normal challenges of teenage life and the added challenge of chronic illness. In 1998, Nikki received a kidney from her father. Though Nikki was only a teenager at the time and had support from family and friends, she was determined to educate herself about transplantation so that she could take responsibility for her own well-being, and she has became a role model for other transplant recipients. The lessons Nikki learned as a teenager also gave her strength to share her story, and she has inspired others to become organ donors.
Thirty-year old Nikki McKenna was diagnosed with kidney disease on her 14th birthday. “From that day forward, my life changed for the bad and the good,” she remembered. “Being a teenager is hard enough, but when you add a chronic illness and find out that you need a transplant it becomes even harder. I had to change everything about my life: my diet, my activities and even my outlook on life. Before I had kidney disease, the only things I worried about were school, friends and making the sports team. After being diagnosed, my worries included my next doctor’s appointment, the results of my lab tests and if I could get through the day.
“During my illness and after my transplant, I learned two very important lessons: #1: Take responsibility for your well-being, and #2: Keep a positive attitude. Although life was harder, I was determined to make the best of it.”
Nikki believed that “My disease and transplant became a learning experience for me. Although my family was there for me 100 percent, I felt that it was my responsibility to learn what being a patient was all about and what I had to do for myself. I wanted to know what was going on with my body, why all of the medications, and how they were going to help me. I wanted to know what a transplant was, and why I needed it. How was I going to get it and when I did, what was I to expect? Most importantly, why did this happen to me? I wasn’t provided with all the answers; some answers I had to find out on my own, and some answers I would find later in life.
“Keeping a positive attitude when you have to take numerous medications, deal with physical and mental issues and go to dialysis is pretty tough. I didn’t think that this was possible. However, I was wrong. My family and friends, teachers, doctors and nurses, and even people that I didn’t know, were there for me. These people made sure that I did make it through the day and never gave up. They made sure that my family was well-supported and had the strength and financial ability to go along this journey with me. Because of them, I made it. I continued to go to school and play sports to the best of my ability. I stayed positive, most of the time, and when people had questions about my illness, I had answers for them.”
After the long wait for a transplant, Nikki’s father donated a kidney to her on September 29, 1998. “The person who was there for me and taught me about staying positive saved my life,” said Nikki. “I believe that things happen for a reason and whether or not you are able to find the answer right away, one day you realize that you have. Today, I am making a difference in people’s lives. Because of me and my story, people are making the choice to become organ donors.”
Do you want to honor a transplant recipient whom you know: a transplant recipient, a heroic donor family, transplant team? You can have a rose dedicated to be placed on the 2010 Rose Parade Float Family Circle Garden. To learn more and how to honor that special hero by visiting the Donate Life Family Circle.
The Donate Life Rose Parade Float is the world's largest organ donation awareness event to encourage individuals to learn more about organ, eye and tissue donation then register to be a donor. In California, please visit Donate Life California - in other states please click HERE.
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