Reader Submission: I Was Diagnosed With Stage 3 Renal Failure At 37
By Sherri Brown
“Stop crying and suck it up” are the words I remember my mother saying two days after my release from the hospital. I was so mad at her at that moment, but she’s my mother; what was I to do? I could barely see and I was in need of her help. You see, less than two weeks earlier, at the age of 37, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Renal Failure, better known to the world as Chronic Kidney Disease.
My story dates back several years. The earliest memory I have of hearing the words high blood pressure is during my pregnancy with my fourth son. During that amazing time I remember doctors being concerned for my health as I had been diagnosed with preeclampsia in the third trimester. I thought it was just a “pregnancy thing” and that I could take my medicine and bounce back, and I probably could’ve, if only I had listened in the beginning.
After my son was born, life went back to normal. I was a mother of four with two jobs. I was living life to the fullest, traveling with my children with no restrictions. I’ll admit back then I hadn’t found my niche in life; hence the two jobs. Finally in June of 2014 I got the blessing I had been waiting on. My resume fell in the hands of a large company in my area and just like that I had a new job. The position paid well and it was a little closer to my home. It was the break I needed. But while the position offered more money it came with a minor setback: no health insurance was offered in the first 60 days of employment. I prayed for the kind of money this company was offering, as well as the hours, unlimited overtime, little-to-no supervision, and the relaxing environment. Surely, nothing would go wrong in 60 days, I thought. Boy was I wrong. After accepting the position and going through training I was relocated even closer to my home. I’ll admit I was a workaholic. I never took a day off, I missed my son’s football games and teacher’s conferences. Anything that would take me away from the office I wouldn’t be bothered with it. I had rationalized in my mind that I was making up for working two jobs. I never wanted to fall behind again. I was in a position to do so much better and I wanted to seize the opportunity; my blessing.
The company was coming up on the 60-day time period to extend our contracts or hire us, but due to behind-the-scenes issues we were told it would be a little longer. I continued on as I had an agenda to accomplish financially. In late October, finally they were ready to offer us contracts, everything had been confirmed, and we were to meet with HR in two weeks to complete paperwork and finalize the agreement. I was excited; I needed my benefits as I had started to feel ill as of late. I was experiencing shortness of breath, lethargy, and I didn’t have an appetite. Something wasn’t right. I thought, was it bronchitis, the flu, maybe walking pneumonia? I continued to work, feeling worse by the day. Finally, the Wednesday before the big meeting I called out of work and decided to visit the ER. I drove myself thinking they would prescribe me something and send me to work the next day; however no one was prepared for what was next.
I thought I was hearing things when the nurse explained that my blood pressure was reading 286/185. I know I hadn’t seen my doctor in a while, but wow. Then came the biggest shock to my system. “I’m sorry miss, but you won’t be leaving tonight, we’ve called in a specialist.” Shock and awe hit my system. I thought, “I’ve got to call my mom, I’ve got to call my boyfriend, what about my kids? Who will keep my kids tonight?” When the specialist arrived it was a sobering conversation. “Ma’am, you won’t be leaving the hospital. You’re very sick, please let me explain to you how this works. You’re at Stage 3 renal failure and you will possibly need dialysis to live.” Devastation was all my mind could muster. I was admitted to the ICU for three days and moved to a regular room thereafter for an additional five days — and guess what? I had no insurance. I felt alone, and scared. If only I had waited another week I would have had insurance and a regular primary care physician. I failed myself and my kids and depression was setting in.
Upon release from the hospital I couldn’t see. I literally lost my eye sight. My blood pressure was so high it caused the blood vessels behind my eyes to burst. I couldn’t see my babies. I had to be guided in my own home. I was so defeated, and at times it felt like the lowest time in my life. I started in-center dialysis treatment two days after being released. I was the youngest patient there and I felt it every minute. When I slowly began to get my sight back, I reached out to people whom I thought were my friends. Some stuck by me, others slowly went on with their lives as if I had been a distant memory. Maybe it was me, had I become so depressed that I didn’t recognize what was real anymore? I realized when all was gone all I had was my faith and I slowly started to recognize God saved my life in that hospital. I thought back to the doctors telling me that I should have stroked out or that I should be dead, BUT GOD wasn’t done with me and I wasn’t done with myself.
I’ve learned to accept my illness and I realize it could be so much worse. I am so thankful! I am a regular dialysis patient and will be as long as God keeps me here or heals me first. I am now living my truth and I thank him every day. My new lifestyle has me home more — no more missing conferences or sporting events for my kids — I’m still living life to the fullest. What I’ve gathered from my diagnosis is to not take life for granted; enjoy it while you still have it.