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A pair of women share their stories of patience while waiting for kidney transplants

K.C. Strader and Jennifer Dennis were both diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease. Now they offer support to each other while waiting for a transplant.

PHOENIX — They’ve been supporting each other on a social media group for years, but when they finally had to chance to meet face-to-face, the emotions were overwhelming as they discussed their diagnosis of kidney disease and the need each one faces for a living donor.

K.C. Strader and Jennifer Dennis were both diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease early in life. The disease is caused by cysts that form on the kidneys, causing symptoms such as high blood pressure, back pain and kidney stones. Roughly 500,000 people in the United States suffer from PKD, which can lead to kidney failure.

The kidneys of both Strader and Dennis operate about 10% of normal kidney function and the two are both looking at dialysis while waiting on the transplant list.

“In the beginning, I really didn't think we would be here like on the edge of dialysis,” said Dennis. 

“I never thought that I would be at this point,” said Strader. “My goal is to avoid dialysis. And it's still my goal. It's just getting less and less of an option.”

Living on dialysis is an option both Strader and Dennis are hoping to avoid. Both dream of a time when they can do the things they enjoy, such as spending time with the grandkids or completing a shift at work, that doesn’t come at the expense of two or three days of pain and exhaustion.

“I want to spend time with the kids, maybe go back to work,” said Dennis. “I mean, I spent a lot of years going to school for a career that I lost. Maybe I'll work part-time, maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just spend time with the family, I don't know. But I just want to do normal things.”

“I want to not think that I need a kidney transplant 24/7," Strader said. "Yeah, that's what I want.”

Both Strader and Dennis are on transplant lists, but it is unlikely either of them will receive a transplant before needing dialysis. Their best hope is to find a living donor.

They said waiting for a deceased donor takes, on average, five to seven years. While the process of screening a living donor may be time-consuming, taking nearly a year to screen a prospective donor, it would greatly shorten the amount of time each would need dialysis.

“Dialysis is very similar to like chemo [therapy] in a way,” explained Dennis. “Yes, it is keeping you alive, but, it's depleting your body the entire time you're doing it. So, every month, every year, that you have to do it, you're getting sicker and sicker.”

Strader has an email address that someone interested in finding out more about testing for her can go to: kidney4kc@gmail.com 

Dennis has taken to social media, on both Facebook and Instagram, to find a prospective living donor.

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