Kathi Roberts first discovered Lauren's Hope Medical ID Jewelry about 5 years ago when she became a dialysis patient but her journey started long before.
Since Kathi is a Hemo dialysis Patient, she felt it was absolutely vital to wear a medical ID in the event she was unable to advocate for herself.
"When [you’re] a hemo dialysis patient you have to be very careful with your access site, and […] you can not have any blood pressure or blood taken from that arm," Kathi said.
"[…]If anything ever happened to me, how would a paramedic know that? I thought it would be important to see if I could find a Medical ID bracelet. I went on several different sites, and so many of them were just so ‘blah’," she said. "Then I found the Lauren's Hope site and fell in love with the different styles and the quality of the bracelets[.] It has been hard just to order just one.”
Kathi's story follows a pattern too many of those with chronic illnesses encounter: Many years of doctor visits without a clear diagnosis.
“As a small child I was constantly in and out of the hospital. I suffered from very high fevers and really don’t remember too much about that time; However, the things I do remember are [my] Mom and Dad wrapping me up in a blanket, rushing me to the hospital where I was handed over to ladies dressed in white uniforms," Kathi said. "This event became a routine of emergency hospital visits (which never got any easier), and each time I went back, the doctors had no clue as to what was causing the fevers. After several visits, they had diagnosed me with Rheumatic Fever.”
Things continued on this way until a fateful day when Kathi's young sister was rushed to the Emergency Room. After several tests, her sister was diagnosed with Vesicoureteral Reflux, and she had surgery immediately.
Vesicoureteral Reflux is the abnormal flow of urine from the bladder to the upper urinary tract. Basically, waste is unable to be vacated from the body and backs up into the kidneys and renal system. Vesicoureteral reflux is more common in infants and young children, but older children and even adults can be affected.
About 10 percent of children have it, and studies estimate that VUR occurs in about 32 percent of siblings of an affected child. In the case of Kathi's sister, she needed to transplant her urethras.
“My sister was an angel that God had sent me [because] if it wasn’t for her getting sick, doctors would have never diagnosed my illness. [A few months later,] I got really sick and was rushed to the hospital. My Mom mentioned my sister’s situation to the doctors, and they tested me to see if I had that same problem. Sure enough, the results were official, my ureters needed to be transplanted as well.”
After Kathi's sister's surgery, Kathi's condition continued to worsen. That's when doctors made a realization that led to a real diagnosis: Kathi was suffering from the same illness as her younger sister and had been for all those years.
Now that there was a diagnosis discovered, Kathi could receive specific treatment for the problem. The diagnosis stated that her right kidney had completely stopped functioning. The only option doctors could give was to remove her kidney.
"I recall being so afraid the day I went into surgery. There was so much fear in not knowing what to expect. I thought this would be the end of all of my problems."
After the non-functioning kidney was removed, the then 21-year-old Kathi was still not feeling up to par.
"I then had an open renal biopsy on my left kidney with a diagnosis of Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis. One week after the surgery I had a follow up visit with the doctor, and as my husband and I sat there with anticipation, [...] the doctor told us, 'Your wife has a serious kidney disease, and she may not live to see 35, and it is my suggestion that you do not have any children as it could be her life or the baby's.'"
Kathi has lived far past these expectation, but in 2005, she began to lose a lot of weight, was plagued by nausea, and her doctors could not pinpoint the problem.
"Finally, after having my gall bladder [removed] and following several other tests, I went for a GFR (Glomerular filtration rate) test," Kathi said. The GFR Test gauges how well the kidneys are functioning.
"This day was one of my biggest nightmares. My husband and I hadn’t even walked in the door when the phone rang, and it was my doctor saying how sorry he was but I needed to go and see a vascular surgeon and have a perm-a-cath and a fistula," she said. "He said I needed to start dialysis due to the fact that my one and only remaining kidney was functioning at only 5%."
Kathi underwent surgery and then began dialysis.
"I thought I would die the first time they stuck the needles in my arms. I was both exhausted and in a state of depression, and looking back, I believe I would have gone completely nuts if it hadn’t been for the prayers of so many people and those wonderful people from church that sat with me during my treatments."
To make matters worse, Kathi's mother became ill shortly after she started dialysis treatments, and she quickly realized that traveling while on dialysis is quite the ordeal.
"The worst part of being on dialysis and trying to travel is that you have to make arrangements at other dialysis centers, and it sometimes takes time for them to get set up. I was fortunate that they found a center for me so quickly," she said. "While I was in Connecticut my routine was to visit mom in the nursing home, and then my sister would bring me to dialysis."
Kathi continues to take dialysis treatments to aid her kidney, but through it all, she remains eternally optimistic about each new day.
"Every day is a new beginning, so what I am trying to say is never, ever, never, give up hope."