Monday, June 27, 2011


Mama Tina and daughter Karina


Well, folks, I'm afraid I have been forced to come out of my self-imposed blogging retirement. I know I said that I had saved the best for last (meaning, of course, my dear husband) but I have a new friend that I would like to tell everyone about.

Her name is Tina. She is Mexican. She has lived in the U.S. (legally!) for sixteen years with her husband and their three children. She works harder than most people I know. She pays her bills. She pays her taxes. She does not rely on anyone but herself and her husband to provide for the needs of her family. She has done everything right as far as being a productive and contributing member of our society. AND she has devoted the last four years to trying to save her daughter's life.

That is what makes Tina's story unique. I am in awe of her. Four the past four years, twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week, Tina has dedicated all of her energy and her time to do whatever she can do to keep her daughter alive.

In 2007, when Tina's daughter Karina was sixteen, she was diagnosed with kidney disease during a routine sports physical examination. She was told by doctors that she would eventually need a transplant but that she must immediately begin dialysis treatment to keep her blood clean by removing excess fluids, minerals, and wastes. Her diseased kidneys could no longer function efficiently and there was no other alternative. Karina was to have hemodialysis at The Children's Hospital for the next year and a half. This meant three times a week, for four hours each visit. By my calculations, this adds up to 936 hours of being connected to a machine that removes your blood, filters it, then puts it back in! For a teenager!! Following that, Karina had a soft catheter surgically placed in her abdomen. This allowed her to have what is known as Peritoneal Dialysis daily in her own home. In order to qualify for this procedure, all family members living in the household were required to attended daily classes for three months to learn the process, the risks and the troubleshooting techniques of having such a machine in the home. They all attended enthusiastically.

Now Karina is able to perform her own dialysis, with the help of her family, in her own home by connecting her catheter to a PD machine for ten hours a day, every night while she sleeps. Fortunately for the family, the machine and dialysis solutions are provided by the National Kidney Foundation at a relatively small cost to the family. She continues to be monitored by the amazing nephrology team in the Dialysis Unit at The Children's Hospital where she has come to be considered a huge part of their "family" .

In spite of the challenges of daily dialysis, Karina has lead a somewhat "normal" life. Although she missed a large portion of her junior year of high school from having to have hemodialysis three times a week, she graduated from Dove Science Academy as a member of the President's Honor Roll. She has attended college for the last two years pursuing a degree in nursing. Karina has been a "literal" poster child for Children's Hospital and The Miracle Network, doing volunteer work and speaking to various groups about the challenges of kidney disease.

Mama Tina continues to donate countless hours to the hospital in community service. She is the official "go to" person whenever there is a new Hispanic patient whose family needs comforting and educating in the challenges of hemo- and peritoneal- dialysis. This is a very unselfish woman. Her own wants and needs have been displaced by her determination to save her daughter's life.

Now for the problem. Dialysis is only a temporary solution. At some point, Karina will need a kidney transplant.

Now for problem number two. Karina turns twenty-one in December. At that time, she will no longer be eligible for services at Children's. All of her services will no longer be available. She has no medical insurance. She needs to get that transplant. It is my understanding that, to be able to be "listed" as a potential kidney recipient, funds for the transplant must be in place prior to the surgery. No funds, no transplant. If anyone reading this knows otherwise, pleeeeease set me straight!

So for the past four years, Karina's mother, Tina, has set aside all of her earnings to save for a transplant. In addition to cleaning houses by day, Tina has held numerous fundraisers….sponsoring neighborhood dances, organizing car washes, and catering her special Mexican foods. She has even opened a small business selling Mexican food five evenings a week out of a small "taco stand" in OKC.

The family has developed a tremendous support from their Hispanic community including numerous television spots and private donations. But this is not enough. Karina needs help outside of the Hispanic community.

We've all seen the donation cans at our local car washes and gas stations. There are so many out there that need our help to qualify for transplant. But I'm afraid the cans and piggy banks are not enough. Karina and those like her need the help of those of us that are able to share.

So whether you're Republican or Democrat or somewhere in between….whether you're a parent or not…..I know that most of you have known that horrible fear of possibly losing a loved one unnecessarily. I'm not sure what I can do as one simple individual but I guar-an-damn-tee you, I am going to try to do something! I hope you will too.