Milford residents Nadine Holleger and Cleveland Whidbee share a unique disorder called polycystic kidney disease that affects the body’s ability to filter waste products that can become harmful to the person it inflicts. Working together at the Delaware Veteran’s Home in Milford, the pair have shared their stories and knowledge of the disease with each other in an effort to overcome the disorder that affects nearly 1 in every 1,000 Americans.
Polycystic kidney disease is passed down through generation as the gene is inherited from parent to child. The disease causes many cysts to develop in the kidneys which fill up with liquid until they rupture. The ruptured cysts create scar tissue that replaces the normal kidney tissue, lessening the effectiveness of the kidneys. The affected kidney grows larger and as the disease progresses kidney failure is possible. End-stage renal failure, stage V, is eventually fatal unless treated with dialysis or a kidney transplant. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) in the United States there were 93,000 patients registered on the kidney transplant waiting list in 2010.
Nadine inherited the disease from her father and was diagnosed with having the gene in her late twenties. She visited her family physician last April after a kidney infection and was told by her doctor that the polycystic kidney disease was now in stage IV and she needed a transplant. Nadine is now on the Pennsylvania and Maryland kidney transplant list and waiting for a match. Unfortunately, this is not something new for the Holleger family as Nadine’s two sisters also inherited the gene and are on transplant waiting lists around the country. The effects of the disease include extreme exhaustion, back and side pains, headaches and difficulty using the bathroom.
“It’s hard to stay awake and stay warm,” commented Nadine. “You wear blankets in the summer and it is very hard to interact with people when you are constantly exhausted.”
Cleveland Whidbee found out he inherited the polycystic kidney gene six years ago and was diagnosed with the disease three years later, after he gained 155 pounds from retaining fluids. A father of five, Cleveland is currently on the kidney transplant list in Delaware.
The two admit that having a coworker experiencing the same disease has helped them to deal with the emotional and physical pain that accompanies them every day. They have both also experienced the heartache of losing a willing donor to complications. In January of this year Nadine was prepared for surgery only to find out that her donor’s blood vessels were too small. Cleveland’s brother volunteered to donate his kidney but Cleveland experienced a cold during his operation, postponing surgery. Before that rescheduled date arrived his brother was deployed overseas.
“I have found that Nadine really knows how I feel because she is going through this too,” commented Cleveland. “It helps to know someone that knows exactly what you are going through.”
Cleveland has B positive blood and can receive a kidney transplant from anyone with B type blood. Being blood type O negative, Nadine is at another disadvantage, as she can donate her organs to anyone, only individuals with O negative blood can donate to her. Without a kidney transplant Nadine and Cleland will eventually experience renal failure and have to be put on dialysis.
“The whole idea of dialysis scares me,” states Nadine. “I am trying to put off dialysis for as long as I can but how long can I put it off, I need help.”
Nadine and Cleveland both want to educate people about polycystic kidney disease and encourage individuals to learn about the the kidney transplant process. They suggest that individuals should research the transplant process from The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) at http://www.umm.edu/transplant/living_kidney_donor.htm. Nadine and Cleveland are still waiting to find their match and hope that someone will look at those lists and give them a second chance at living a normal life.
“We want to shed light on the disease and the transplant process to allow ourselves and others experiencing the disease to have a fighting chance,” stated Nadine. “It is not an easy decision to donate a kidney but we want people to educate themselves on the donating process.”