My name is Riley Crowder. I am a 26 year old girl with my Masters in Child Life. For those of you who do not know what Child Life is: Child Life Specialist work in hospitals to normalize the environment for children and their families through explaining new diagnoses, preparing for procedures and tests in developmentally appropriate ways and using play to distract from painful and trauma invoking tests or procedures. I love hiking, kayaking, going to the gym, being around my friends. My friends and family would describe me as a loving, kind, empathetic, funny, outgoing, loyal, hardworking, and motivated girl.
Sounds like a description of the average 26 year old; does it not? Well, the second part of my life story is a bit more “different” than the average girl my age…At 4 years old, I was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease. At the tiny age of 4, I started taking loads of medication, including two shots; one to make me grow and one to keep my red blood cell count up. Like all medications, they had their side effects… The growth hormone shot somehow gave me childhood epilepsy. So, at 4 and a half years old, I was put on an anti-seizure medication. That medication ended up causing pancreatitis at 7 years old. It went undiagnosed for 6 months, and almost killed me. Luckily, That was the last big hospitalization until I was 12 years old. I finally got a live donor kidney from my mom!
Life could not have been better! Even though I still had to take a ton of medication, with a ton of side effects, I was ecstatic! I could finally live a life uninterrupted by hospitalizations and needles. I could play soccer without feeling like I was going to pass out, dance ballet with all the energy in the world, and most importantly, I was ablue to go to school, hang out with my friends; essentially living a normal life.
During this healthy time in my life, I feel as though I took full advantage. I graduated from middle school, high school, college, and graduate school. I traveled the country, hiked the Grand Canyon, and lived life to the fullest. I graduated May 2014 with my Graduate degree from Wheelock College in Child Life and by August, I had landed my dream job as a Child Life Specialist in the ER at Miami Children’s hospital. I was so excited to start my new job in Miami! I wanted to give back; give children a sense of normalcy during an incredibly traumatic time in their lives.
Unfortunately, a year and a half a go on December 25th, 2014; I lost my first transplant of 13 years and had to be put on dialysis. On that day, I had to come to terms that I could no longer work as a Child Life Specialist because of dialysis and the immune suppressants I take for my kidney transplant.
I am not sharing my story to get a pity party. I am sharing my story because I, among hundreds of thousands that need a new kidney. But honestly, what makes me deserve one more than the 26 year old physical therapist that has been waiting 6 years already for a second transplant? Nothing. But there is a program at Massachusetts General Hospital called the Exchange Program. The Exchange program is also known as paired donation; Person A who needs a kidney secures a willing donor A that does not match directly to him/ her. Then person B, with another willing donor B who matches person A. Person A gets a kidney from donor B, while person B gets a kidney from donor A.
Through this program, instead of saving one person’s life, you could save two! How amazing does that sound? How would you feel about telling that life story? Please take the time to contact Massachusetts General Hospital’s Kidney Transplant Program at 617-643-7193. Please share my story On your blog, Facebook page, and any other outlet you may have.
My Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/rileyecrowder