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Your Healthy Family: Colorado Springs woman finds kidney donor on Facebook

Posted at 10:49 AM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 17:10:12-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — There are many important aspects to the Southern Colorado Kidney Walk, this Sunday morning in Colorado Springs. The walk also raises awareness of kidney disease, as well as the need for kidney transplant donations and brings together survivors, donors, and their families to honor those who have been lost to kidney disease.

Tess La Fera was twenty-seven years old, when she learned she was in kidney failure. Tess says, “We talked to one of the nephrologists and he said, ‘Dialysis is necessary right now, we need to start almost immediately and you'll probably need a transplant’.”

See Tess's diagnosis story HERE

The news came as a shock. Tess says, “To me it felt almost like a death sentence.”

After getting on the kidney waiting list, and plans to have her mom donate one of her kidneys fell through because of some un-known health issues, Tess decided to turn to Facebook. She set up a page to get the word out.

Tess remembers, “I had a couple of days off, so I set up a Facebook page called Operation Kidney, and within just a couple days it went viral.”

And then came the response Tess was hoping for, from a total stranger in California named Kelsey. Tess says, “It took her ten days to find me. Kelsey saw it and was like, ‘I'm going to try to apply, why not? We are the same age, same gender, same blood type, let's just try for it.’ She filled out the application, it happened to be on my birthday on April 23rd, and three months and a day later, we had the surgery.”

As the push continues to raise awareness about kidney disease there is also a need to have more people become donors says Dr. Jesse Flaxenburg, MD with Pikes Peak Nephrology. “Anyone who goes to register at the DMV for their driver's license that is one of the questions they will ask you. I would implore everyone to become a kidney (and organ) donor because once you're gone, you don't need them anymore. You might as well let someone else have it and use it. It will affect their life dramatically in a positive way. In terms of donating a kidney while you're alive that's certainly a possibility. Anything we can do to reduce the burden of dialysis, and it's a huge burden is a fantastic thing.”

Tess says through her experience she not only found a kidney donor but also someone who is now more like a sister to her in Kelsey. “She's the most selfless person I've ever met. She wanted to give a kidney even before she found my page. She doesn't drink, she doesn't smoke, she doesn't do drugs, so she knew that she would probably be a pretty good candidate. She has a heart of gold and would give anyone the shirt off her back even if she doesn't hardly know you and this story is proof of that for sure.”

When Tess began her journey with kidney disease in 2018, the Kidney Walk at Memorial Park was part of her introduction into a new and powerful community. Tess says of the walk, “It's a life-changer, to interact with people who have lived with this disease, family members and friends who can tell their stories. It's just a really great community event to get people together and get people thinking about health and wellness and what that really means.”

So what can you do to make a difference when it comes to kidney disease, besides coming out and supporting this Sunday’s Kidney Walk? Tess says, “Get your kidneys checked because 90% of people who have kidney disease, that's 26 million people in this country don't know that they have kidney disease. The sooner you can get diagnosed you can prevent going into kidney failure and there is already a need for donors.”

Dr. Flaxenburg says, “I just implore anyone whether you know someone who has kidney disease, or you have kidney disease, come to the Kidney Walk and support our cause, help us out.”

Tess and Dr. Flaxenburg are just a few of the many people who will be at this Sunday's Kidney Walk. Registration and check in begins at 8:30 Sunday morning at Memorial Park. I hope to see you out there to walk for a very important cause.

To register, or get more information on this Sunday’s southern Colorado Kidney Walk, you can visit the webpage HERE.