For some area residents, life itself depends on spending nearly nine hours each night hooked up to a machine.
When a person with kidney disease undergoes a dialysis treatment, the process balances the body by reducing levels of waste and toxins, which is what a healthy kidney would normally do. Dialysis is only a temporary solution for individuals with kidney disease, because without the transplant of a healthy kidney from a live donor, or cadaver, they would have to continue treatment for the remainder of their lives. However, hope has been restored for many individuals living with kidney disease, as the stress of finding a live donor has been reduced by the Internet.
According to Jeanette Ostrom, president of WNY Kidney Connection, she helped start the organization in 2006 after she successfully found a live kidney donor for her son on Matchingdonors.com, which is a national website. So, Ostrom opted to start a regional version of the website, www.wnykidneyconnection.org, to help other individuals in her community.
Several area residents associated with Western New York Kidney Connection are pictured. From left are: Jessica George, fiancee of Dan Bottomley; Bottomley, who is in need of a kidney transplant; Cassandra Delcamp, who is in need of a kidney transplant; and Jeanette Ostrom, president of WNY Kidney Connection.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
"A complete stranger came forward to save my son's life," Ostrom said. "So, I wanted to create something local because not everybody can afford to pay for travel, food and lodging for a living donor. So far we've had 11 transplants take place between complete strangers - our motto is neighbors helping neighbors."
NEIGHBOR IN NEED
Cassandra Delcamp, 27, a Mayville native who currently lives in Jamestown, is one example of a member of the community who is in need of a kidney transplant. With the assistance of dialysis, Delcamp is able to survive an otherwise deadly form of kidney failure. Delcamp specifically utilizes peritoneal dialysis, which allows her to remove waste from her abdominal cavity via catheter. The process is quite lengthy, requiring her to spend approximately nine hours each night hooked up to a machine that pumps a solution into the abdomen, and waste fluids out.
"I don't really have anyone who is willing or able to give me a kidney," Delcamp said. "But, I feel like there are people out there who are learning that there are those of us who need kidneys."
Delcamp first learned that she was in need of a kidney on her birthday in 2010. It came as a huge surprise, but she said dealing with it hasn't been too much of a struggle because she's been sick her whole life.
"It sort of just came into my life, and is what I have to do - it's what makes me wake up every morning," Delcamp said. "But, at the same time, I don't want to have that nine hours where I have to schedule dialysis. I don't have a social life at all because people don't understand my restrictions, and why I have to be home every night."
Some of the restrictions that Delcamp, and many others who undergo dialysis must endure include not drinking alcohol and adhering to a specific diet. However, peritoneal dialysis is normally much less restrictive than hemodialysis, which requires the individual to receive treatment at a hospital every 2-3 days.
There are also conditions and side effects associated with kidney failure and dialysis treatment. The issues range from anemia, bone disease, itching, sleep disorders, pain or stiffness in joints and neuropathy. Delcamp herself suffers from neuropathy, which has caused her to lose feeling in many of her toes, but also intense pain in those with remaining feeling. The issues have made work quite difficult for Delcamp, who up until recently was working at several jobs, but has had to reduce her hours.
Delcamp has Type a-positive blood, so in order for a kidney transplant to be successful she would need to find a donor who has Type A or Type O blood. On the other hand, those who are on the national waiting list can only receive a kidney from someone with the same blood type. Delcamp said she can't even imagine what it would feel like if someone were to offer her a chance at normal life again.
"How do I even go back into life as a person that's not restricted because I have been for so long - it's become second nature," Delcamp said. "No words would be able to express how thankful I'd be."
FRIENDS STEPPING FORWARD
Another area resident who created a WNY Kidney Connection profile, Dan Bottomley, 28, a Bemus Point native and 2003 graduate of Maple Grove High School who currently works as a manager for Wing City Grille, recently received news that a donor would like to share a kidney with him.
Bottomley's transplant is scheduled for May, but his live donor is a friend of his, and not someone he met on the website. However, Bottomley has opted to keep his profile in case there are complications with the transplant.
Bottomley first found out he needed a transplant when he went to hospital after having severe headaches. It was found that he had significantly high blood pressure, but he made it a couple more months without treatment before things got really bad. So, he asked his fiancee, Jessica George, to take him to the hospital on his birthday. Bottomley's lungs had too much fluid in them, and both of his kidneys were at about 5 percent.
"It's not anything fun, and it sucked hearing it - but it wasn't the complete end of the world," Bottomley said. "You can continue living, but hemodialysis makes you weak and not want to do anything. So, switching to peritoneal was much better because you can do it while you sleep. Having a lot of support from friends and family has definitely helped too because it makes you feel like you're not alone."
Bottomley's fiancee said she has been afraid for his life multiple times. When Bottomley switched from hemodialysis to peritoneal and the responsibility of his life was suddenly in their hands, things became especially scary. But, that fear soon dissipated after doing the treatment and seeing how easy it was.
"It's definitely life changing, but you have to push forward," George said.
WNY Kidney Connection is a completely free service that allows area residents to share their story, and link up with live donors. For more information, visit www.wnykidneyconnection.org.