The nurse loomed over me in the dark, holding a pair of scissors right above my groin. She looked annoyed.
“If you can't take them off,” she huffed, “we have to cut them off.”
I strained to hear her over the CPAP mask strapped to my nose and mouth, which was loudly forcing air into my lungs. It felt like I was trapped inside a jet engine.
Take off my underwear. Okay. I wriggled around desperately, trying to lift myself up off the hospital bed.
My arms and legs barely responded. My body was heavy and distant, as if it weren't my own. I realized I was too weak to move and felt a shiver of despair.
I tried to speak, but was interrupted by a wet crackle in the bottom of my lungs. I burst into a violent coughing fit. This is what happens in catastrophic kidney failure. My lungs were filling up with fluid, and I was on my way to drowning to death.
At this point, my only option was emergency surgery. I'd agreed to let them insert a tube in my femoral artery (in other words, my groin) so I could receive dialysis. It would be a life-saving operation, but there was a catch...
My oxygen was low, so they couldn't use general anesthesia. I'd have to be awake for the whole thing.
A few feet away from me, on the other side of a thin yellow curtain, an old woman unleashed a guttural moan. There were a dozen high-risk patients crammed into this acute care unit with me, wailing and protesting in the dark.
God, I thought, I can't die here.
As I recovered from the coughing, I gathered my strength and tried to lift myself up one more time. My body didn't budge.
Going on dialysis had long been my worst fear. But in that moment, I knew it was time to surrender.
“Okay,” I wheezed, nodding at the nurse, “Cut them.”
The scissors glinted in the light, and I looked away.
And all this because I ate one bad piece of sushi...
In April 2019, I stopped by a Trader Joe's and picked up sushi for dinner. I woke up the next day feeling sick. Within 24 hours, I was struggling to get out of bed, overcome with nausea and chills.
I eventually dragged myself to a doctor and was diagnosed with ciguatera fish poisoning. I'll never forget the sheer panic in my physician's voice after the blood test results came back. She told me to go straight to the ER.
At 31 years old, I was in kidney failure.
After being admitted, I underwent 6 surgeries (including 2 dialysis access port placements), 5 blood transfusions, and had pneumonia twice. My feet also inexplicably seized up in pain. I was discharged in a wheelchair.
At home, I was in bad shape. My arms and legs would constantly get trapped under bed sheets, too weak to lift them off. I was violently nauseous over sound, smell, and light, and lost 26 pounds not being able to keep anything down. I also struggled with symptoms of PTSD, like flashbacks and nightmares.
Three times a week, my father hoisted me into a wheelchair and escorted me to a cold, dreary hemodialysis unit in the hospital's basement. There I would endure a grueling 4-hour dialysis session while he sat and waited for me.
That love is one of the best and most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced, despite the circumstances.
A little about me — I’m a teacher, heart and soul. I've poured my passion into creating design and technology classes, as well as bringing computer literacy to underserved communities.
The opportunity to teach others has been the gift of a lifetime. My mission is to make the magic of computing accessible to beginners. There's simply no greater thrill than seeing my students tap into their innate curiosity, surprise themselves with their own talent, and grow in unexpected ways.
I've been living with kidney failure for 2.5 years now. My current routine:
After that, every last shred of time and energy I have left over goes to my students. It's challenging, but I'm happy to wake up alive every day.
I've made a lot of progress on my recovery since 2019. 6 months after the incident, I stopped using a wheelchair and began re-learning how to walk. 18 months after the incident, I was finally able to stand up in the shower. And 24 months after the incident — this year! — I finally developed the strength to perform most basic daily tasks.
The only way I can really get better at this point is with a kidney transplant.
In California, the kidney transplant waitlist for my blood type (O+)
is 10 years.
The outlook isn't great: 1 in 4 dialysis patients die in the first 12 months, and the average life expectancy is 5 years.
I don’t like to think about it, but a lot of people in my situation die before they have an opportunity to be transplanted.
But there’s still hope — this is where you can help!
If I find a matching kidney donor on my own, I could be transplanted
in a matter of months.
Could this be you? Here’s what I’m looking for:
Donating a kidney has a high success rate, fast recovery time, and all costs are covered by the recipient. You can live a normal, healthy life with just one kidney.
I can’t begin to describe how much it would mean to have another chance at life. I dream of being able to stand in front of a classroom and teach again. A kidney donor would make this possible for me.
If you're looking for other ways to help, I have a GoFundMe set up for medical and living expenses. I would be so grateful for your support — any contribution will make a difference for my recovery.
And please consider sharing my story and this website, kidneyfordevon.com. The more people we reach, the more likely we are to find a donor! It just takes one special person to get me back to living a full life.
Thank you for your support. I know I have so much more to give this world. And with your help, I'll finally have a fighting chance to do it.
With warmth and gratitude,