Patient’s Story: Living with Chronic Kidney Disease
My name is Teresa Ritter. I was diagnosed at the age of 21 with chronic kidney disease.
I had renal reflux of the kidneys.
In those times when they diagnosed it, they did not have a cure or treatment. They were not sure what it was.
After many tests and not growing as a baby they were able to diagnose it.
By then, the damage had already been done to my kidneys.
[Dr. Sonali Birewar] There is a condition call congenital kidney disease.
The most common of those is called reflux kidney disease.
It is where the valve between your ureter and your bladder is not working well.
Eventually that leads to recurring kidney infections and that can actually damage the kidneys.
[Teresa Ritter] A lot of times you feel bad. You are tired. You are nauseated.
You are not hungry. You lose your appetite.
But on the outside you look fine, so people do not really understand what you are going through.
They look at you and they say ‘you look fine.’
Well, inside you are not.
It is hard for them to make that connection.
First of all, they have never been there before. They do not know what it is like.
But you look absolutely like everybody else.
[Dr. Sonali Birewar] As more and more toxins build up in the blood, patients have more symptoms of toxemia.
It comes in the form of nausea, vomiting, weak, tired, lethargic, sleepy.
[Teresa Ritter] It was not until I was about 29 when I needed a kidney transplant.
My mom donated her kidney on March 15 – St. Patrick’s Day. It’s been 15 years now.
After my surgery, it was amazing because I had been in such denial before the actual transplant.
I felt better immediately after. I was up and about. I had more energy than I had ever had before.
I could not believe I had waiting so long.
People ask me questions and try to explain my situation and how I was in a lot of denial.
I did not have the help. I did not have the resources.
I was scared. I was not sure what was going to happen.
The unknown was really terrifying to me.
I do like to tell people it’s not as bad as you think.
If anything, after the transplant, I felt 100 percent better. My quality of life had changed immensely.
I was able to go back to work full-time. I got married. I had a baby.
He is 10 years old now. And I was able to lead a life like everyone else.
Unfortunately I need another transplant. My sister is going to donate in June.
[Dr. Sonali Birewar] For a living donor transplant there is something called a preemptive kidney transplant.
You can do it when the kidney function has gone down very close to needing to be on dialysis.
That surgery can be scheduled electively and can be done before the patient gets on dialysis.
I would say sometime between 15 to 20 percent of kidney function is when it’s good to get a living donor transplant.
[Teresa Ritter] I think people need to know that yes it is a very hard diagnosis.
It is not easy to change your lifestyle in order to stay healthy or to feel better.
But to know that there are resources out there and not to be scared of the unknown.
The more people you talk to the stronger you will get. The stronger you will be.
I waited way too long the first time. I regret waiting that long.
I felt so much better after my transplant.
I was scared to go on dialysis. Knowing what I know now I would not wait that long because I know dialysis does make you feel better.
But you are just scared. You just do not know.
I want people to know they are not alone.
There are so many people out there. We just do not talk about it.
We do not want to burden other people with our troubles.
It’s hard to talk to people who cannot relate to what you are feeling.
Ask the question. Reach out to people who have symptoms similar to what we are going through.
You just have to know you are not alone.
There are a lot of us out there and we need each other to support each other.