A will to live: Dover woman needs kidney transplant

DOVER — At only 35 years old, Laura English of Dover is fighting for her life.

After a three-decade long struggle with diabetes she is in need of a new kidney.

Ms. English was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 6 years old. During her adolescence she tested her blood sugar four times daily and took regular injections of insulin until she was 23 and got an insulin pump.

“It was definitely hard growing up with diabetes because although I always kept it very private, I felt different,” Ms. English said.

The daily insulin injections also caused her to gain weight at a time when kids can be very mean to one another.

“I was a teenager and I wanted to go to the beach in a bikini with my friends but I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin,” she said. “I had a hard time just taking insulin because I knew it would make me gain weight. My mom said I was born to stand out. But at that point in my life, I just really wanted to fit in.”

Since high blood sugar due to diabetes is hard on the kidneys, Ms. English knew that kidney failure, and even needing a transplant were a possibility, but at 29 years old, she considered it a far off concern, even when she went to the doctor six years ago, after feeling unwell for a few days.

“I didn’t think it was anything serious and the doctor thought it might be an infection so we did a couple tests and I got a call two days later saying that I immediately had to go to the hospital because I was in acute kidney failure,” she said.

When Ms. English got to the hospital she found out that her kidney function was down to only 17 percent.

Over several days, her kidney function improved alightly to 23 percent. And over the past six years the function has not improved at all.

At age 35, Ms. English only has about 10 percent kidney function.

“It’s amazing how much kidneys affect your quality of life,” said Ms. English, who is the manager of Sunglass Hut in Rehoboth Beach. “I’m dealing with about 40 pounds of fluid, so my body always feels swollen.

“And after being on my feet all day at work, my feet look like loaves of bread when I finally get my shoes off when I get home. From gout to headaches to itchy skin, it seems to affect everything.”

Sometimes the pain can be unbearable and Ms. English has had to go to the hospital for pain relief.

“I’ve learned to be able to cope with it to a certain extent,” she said. “The pain is almost constant and I never knew anyone could withstand this kind of pain on a daily basis. But I have no choice but to keep going.”

Ms. English relies on insurance provided through her employer to cover her medical expenses, while which covered, still cost tens of thousands of dollars a year.

“I have to work to support myself, but most importantly, my son,” she said of 10-year-old Jeremy Cole. “I’m his main care provider and I have to keep things going and pay for medication for the both of us because he has asthma and just one of his inhalers can cost up to $600.”

Ms. English’s doctors at the University of Pennsylvania have told her she will soon need to begin dialysis to do what her kidneys cannot — drain excess fluid and remove substances like potassium, urea, and creatinine from her blood.

Dialysis treatment can be difficult for any patient. But for patients with diabetes, dialysis can present a wide array of complications, most notably by reducing the body’s glycemic control.

“Dialysis is a big deal and something that’s extremely time consuming. I don’t know how I’d be able to do it and keep my job, which I need to have to maintain medical coverage, and to support my son and keep a roof over our heads,” she said.

Even without being on dialysis, Ms. English has trouble making it to work every day due to time-consuming doctor’s appointments and medical tests.

Ms. English’s doctors estimate that once beginning dialysis treatments, her lifespan will be reduced to one year unless she receives a transplant.

“Right now I’m on the transplant list, but the list is very long — six or seven years. So chances are I will die waiting on the list,” she said. “So right now, I’m doing everything I can to find one on my own.”

Ms. English has shared her story on Facebook, with friends and family, church members and everyone she knows.

“I’ve never been one to share all my personal details, but I knew that things were serious and that it was time to put any embarrassment about my medical conditions aside and try to find a solution. Because my life is on the line,” she said.

Now that she’s getting the word out, the most difficult feats still face her.

“I have learned that finding a match is extremely difficult,” she said. “I will need to find a donor that is not only in great health, but that has a good family history and a compatible blood type.

“There are a lot of factors that go into a kidney being eligible so I’m praying that the perfect match will come along soon.”

Although many family members have offered to donate, all have turned out to not be a match or have had other health issues disqualifying them from donating.

Ms. English said that prayer, and her son, have been what’s kept her going since getting the news six years ago.

“My son is going to be 11 soon and he’s worried if I’m going to die, and that’s something a little kid shouldn’t be worried about,” she said.

“And I’m doing everything I can to stay here for him. Because moms are supposed to see their kids grow up and be with them through everything.”

If you are interested in being tested to donate a kidney, contact Ms. English at lauraharrison1983@gmail.com.


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