“Something didn’t feel right.”
So said Kathy Malone of Manhattan.
In July 2017, Malone had just gone back to work in a medical office following a medical leave. When Malone noticed her legs and face were swollen, she went to the nurse and told her something wasn’t right.
“The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the ER,” Malone said.
After testing, a nephrologist walked into her room and said, “You need a kidney. You’re going on dialysis.”
Malone is in end stage renal failure, which Mayo Clinic defines as kidney failure that requires either dialysis or a kidney transplant to keep the patient alive.
A benefit dinner to help pay for expenses associated with the transplant will be held Sept. 8 in Tinley Park. Features include a buffet dinner, raffles and speaker Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, who will discuss his own experience as a kidney transplant recipient.
Although as a transplant patient, Malone's insurance will pay for medical expenses associated with the transplant itself (hers and the donor's expenses), it won't pay for travel and living expenses for her and her family (husband, Kevin, and their two shih tzus.
Kathy and Kevin estimate they will need $7,000 for the three weeks they will spend in Rochester, Minnesota, while Kathy is being treated through Mayo Clinic, they said.
For the first nine months, Kathy opted for peritoneal dialysis, which patients can perform at home and which allowed Kathy to keep working.
But Kathy had to switch to hemodialysis – where the patient is hooked up to a machine to remove waste products – after she developed a severe abdominal infection in the peritoneal area near her port. Kathy said she needed three surgeries to remove the infection.
Her current port goes into her chest and heart, she said.
Although Kathy suspected this day might come, her kidneys, she said “had been holding their own.”
Why Kathy developed kidney failure
When Kathy, 45, had open heart surgery in May 2016, she was told losing kidney function might be a side effect of the surgery.
Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in childhood, Kathy also has a long family history of cardiac issues, she said.
“When they do open heart surgery they put you on a heart/lung bypass machine. The only organs that receive blood are the heart and lungs,” Kathy said. “The brain gets a little bit and so does the liver but the kidneys take a huge it.”
Although Kathy's kidneys did not return to 100 percent functioning following the open heart surgery, they did bounce back fairly well and remained stable, she said.
Kathy eventually returned to work and kept working until she needed an emergency hysterectomy in May 2017, which was followed with major dental work.
“And then the kidney failure happened,” Kathy said. “Then my husband contacted Mayo Clinic and we’ve been going back and forth to Mayo. We went in August, we went in October, we’re going again in September and we’ll go up again for the transplant.”
The Malones also paid a one-time $700 membership fee to matchingdonors.com
According to its website, Matching Donors is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization "supported by patient memberships, advertisements and donations."
“I don’t have a match yet,” Kathy said. “HIPAA Law won’t give us specifics on that. But we do know people through matchingdonors.com and just say they were excluded for one reason or another.”
Even before Kathy went into kidney failure, she believed in donation and acted on her belief. Kathy said she was considered to be a possible donor for her first husband Bernard Woods Jr. when he was battling liver cancer in 2015.
“We had to back off the liver transplant when they found the liver cancer has metastasized to his lung and also into his brain,” Kathy said.
Kathy described hemodialysis as the “most boring four hours in your life three days a week” and “it can make you as sick as chemotherapy.”
She’s can’t drive because – at least not until her new glasses arrive – because she has double vision. But Kathy remains positive and hopeful.
She has her good days, her bad days and her low energy days. On the day of the interview. Kathy had taken a car ride and a trip to the hardware store with Kevin, which she enjoyed immensely.
“You look forward to little things like that.," Kathy said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Kathy Malone benefit dinner
WHEN: 5 to 8 p.m. Sept. 8
WHERE: Parmesans Station at the Metra/Rock Island 80th Avenue Train Station, 18001 South 80th Ave., Tinley Park
ETC: Buffet dinner, raffles, 50/50. A link on Kathy's website leads to the Mayo Clinic living donor site.
TICKETS: $30, advance sales only
INFORMATION: Call Kevin Malone 708-289-6049 or visit www.kathyneedsakidne