Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lana Needs Your Love...and a Little of Your Money

I wish all of you could know my friend Lana Schmidt. I guarantee you, you would be the better for it.

When her kidneys failed her a dozen years ago, all of the energy from them must have rerouted to her heart, because it is supersized and passionate. Whenever I begin thinking that I'm doing quite a lot to advocate for prevention of kidney disease, the proper care and feeding of dialysis patients and organ donation, I read or hear about something else Lana is up to and put on my humble pants again.

We met years ago on the board of the Indy-based Renal Network, where we both serve on the Learning Action Network for Region 10 (the state of Illinois) as "patient subject matter experts." I'm fairly certain one of us deserves that "expert" tag.

Lana can get a kidney! With your help.
In the 11 years she has been on dialysis thanks to an auto-immune deficiency, Lana has tried basically every form of treatment that exists. She started out, as most patients do, on in-center hemodialysis, then switched to Peritoneal Dialysis (my favored form) for seven years. When her body could no longer tolerate PD, she did her own intensive research and selected home hemodialysis as the best means to keep herself alive. 

Feeling the need to assist others based upon what she encountered, she is the co-leader and driving force of the Kidney Patients Support Group of Quincy, Ill., the "Gem City" of west central Illinois, and its sister city across the Mississippi, Hannibal, Mo. She and her writing partner, Patty Purcell, are regular columnist-contributors to the worldwide medical magazine Nephrology News.

Lana sits on the national board of directors for the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP). She has traveled to Capitol Hill to raise awareness of renal disease among key policymakers in Congress. Taking advantage of a state-funded home service program, she has partnered with a local college in her area to have nursing students come to her house and assist in connecting her to her NxStage System One hemodialysis machine, easing the daily setup burden for her while providing invaluable hands-on experience for the students.

A one-woman PR agency, she speaks at conferences around the country and last March during National Kidney Awareness Month managed to land two radio interviews, three newspaper articles – including a front-page feature – and a TV station segment in her town revolving around her fight against renal disease. (You can read the text of the TV story here; you can listen to one of the radio interviews here.) She even gave out kidney awareness information alongside her treats to kids in Quincy last Halloween!

Lana Schmidt is a warm, funny and devoted woman, a true believer. And now she needs our help.

Living a relatively healthy life more than a decade after diagnosis, Lana was a dialysis lifer – or so I assumed. I've met many people in the kidney community who are perfectly content to remain on dialysis with no plans whatsoever to seek a kidney transplant. The devil you know, I suppose. But I was very wrong: She is very excited to have a transplant...but there are complications.

After undergoing more than 20 transfusions over the years, Lana has built up so many antibodies in her blood that the chances of finding a perfect kidney match are practically nil. However, she has a found a surgeon, Dr. Enrico Benedetti, chairman of the department of surgery at the University of Illinois Chicago, who plans to administer a drug called Solaris to block the antibodies at the time of transplant so her body won't automatically reject the organ.

This approach has been used successfully with patients receiving a kidney from a live donor. But Lana will be the first person to try the procedure with a deceased donor kidney. And that's the rub.

Because it's an experimental technique, the hospital wants Lana nearby following the transplant so they can monitor her closely. Since Quincy is 300 miles from Chicago, she will be required to stay at the University of Illinois Guest House in Chicago for at least two months post-surgery, and insurance won't cover her stay. The out-of-pocket costs for her transplant will be at least $3,000, and she needs to raise those funds herself.

"Mostly, I am asking for prayers through this journey and that everything works out," she wrote me. "But if you are able to financially support me by donating to help offset those costs, that would be very much appreciated. 

"Please forward this to others who may be interested in supporting me in this kidney transplant process."

Well, that's exactly what I'm doing, Lana!

Folks, $3,000 is such a relatively small amount to raise, and if everyone reading this gave just ten bucks we could cover her expenses in no time.

Believe me, it's money well spent. I know as well as anybody how dramatically one's life can change with a successful kidney transplant. And if anyone can pay that blessing forward to benefit others, it's Lana Schmidt. 

If you're willing to help, click here to make a donation through PayPal. (Just substitute your email address for mine.) Or, send your checks directly to:

Lana Schmidt
1636 N703rd Lane
Liberty, IL, 62347

Then, immediately after you donate, please feel very good about yourself. 

And thanks.