Transplant fires up passion to help
REHOBOTH BEACH -- Erin Kesselring's life changed when her father's kidneys failed.
When Ronnie Johnson was added to the waiting list for a kidney transplant in 2002, Kesselring knew she wanted to help.
"Immediately, myself and a lot of family and friends were willing to get tested," she said. "I was one of the first ones to get tested and I was a match."
Kesselring wasn't hesitant about having surgery, but thankful for the opportunity.
"I knew I wanted to get tested," she said. "We felt blessed that with so many illnesses, this was one you could do something to help."
Kesselring and her father both had successful surgeries and have since supported organ transplants in various ways.
"I'm always available to talk about kidney transplants," Johnson said. "I'm just thankful to be here to talk about it."
The experience taught both about life, family and what's really important, he said.
Kesselring, a fashion merchandise major in college, always thought about moving away, but re-evaluated her plan after the experience.
"With this happening after I got out of college, it changed my perspective," she said. "I always thought I would get a big job and move away, but then my main goal was to get my dad healthy. I decided I wanted to stay close to them and that there's nowhere else I want to be."
Now the two, along with their families, participate in kidney walks to benefit the National Kidney Foundation. They have traveled to Baltimore, Salisbury and Delaware over the past four years to help raise funds for the organization.
"We do the walks because we believe in what the National Kidney Foundation does," Kesselring said. "We also use it to reflect on how healthy my dad is."
Lois Morgan, director of Delmarva Services for the National Kidney Found in Maryland, said the more families that share their stories, the better.
"It helps with awareness of kidney disease," she said. "We have a big job ahead of us to get the word out."
Morgan said many of the walkers who participate in the events are recipients of kidneys, like Johnson.
"I think it's wonderful that they come out," she said. "They received a wonderful gift and they are so grateful."