BG kidney recipient promotes fundraiser
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Thursday, 01 November 2012 10:17
Bowling Green's Naomi Lee had plenty of motivation to join the Board of Directors of the Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio a few years ago.
|Kidney transplant survivor Naomi Lee. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
For one thing, she knows that kidney disease is now one of the top 10 leading causes of death in Northwest Ohio.
For another, Lee herself is a kidney transplant recipient.
"I had my transplant 34-plus years ago, so I'm one of the old timers," said Lee, a retired Bowling Green State University employee.
"I was first diagnosed with kidney disease when I was 3. I was in and out of the hospital several times before it just stabilized on its own. Needless to say, in the 1950s they didn't know very much about kidney disease."
That lack of knowledge eventually proved dangerous.
As a 19-year-old recent bride, Lee soon became pregnant with the couple's daughter, but "due to the pregnancy my kidney function decreased. The added strain of a second body was more than my body could handle.
"It never occurred to me (pregnancy) would be a problem," she said.
"The doctors (knew it) wasn't the wisest move," but no one had warned Lee, or her family.
Specialists at the University of Minnesota put Lee on kidney medication to slow the progress of the disease "but there was no reversing it" and they warned her she would only have about 10 years before she'd need to have a transplant.
"It was a pretty good estimate. Ten years and two weeks" later, she was on the operating table. She was just 29.
Fast forward to 2012 and Lee, now vice president of the foundation's board, is among those finalizing plans for its biggest fundraiser of the year - The Wine Affair.
It will be held Nov. 9 at Parkway Place, 2500 Parkway Plaza, Maumee. Guests will enjoy dinner, wine, a silent and live auction along with entertainment.
The Wine Affair, which begins at 6:30 p.m., is open to the public. Spaces are still available. Individual tickets are $90. To register, visit www.kfnwo.org or call (419) 329-2196.
In recent years it has raised $90,000 for the foundation.
The need is great. Currently, nearly 4,000 Northwest Ohio residents receive dialysis.
Lee was fortunate.
"My older sister, Marcia, gave me one of her kidneys."
She was not so fortunate in that her transplant surgery was followed by a very serious complication. "I actually spent seven weeks in a coma due to side effects of steroids."
Otherwise, Lee said, the transplant presented no problems for her or for her sister. She still takes anti-rejection medicine daily.
A Bowling Green resident for the past 16 years, both Lee and her husband went to work at the university. She was assistant athletics director for Student Athletic Services, a job that basically involved making sure the athletes left BGSU with a degree.
Almost as soon as she retired in 2006, Lee spoke to Dr. Allen Flickinger, her Toledo nephrologist, about getting involved in the kidney foundation.
"I started with working on the Wine Affair. Then the next committee I was on was patient services. I did some training of other volunteers and other patients - folks who were either going to be starting dialysis or had recently had a transplant."
She said "It's been very, very rewarding to talk to other people" about having kidney disease leading to a transplant. "Because it's a scary process.
"It's only once you have the surgery, you realize how badly you were feeling before."
Lee was "very fortunate. We had insurance. But the patients the kidney foundation helps are not so fortunate. They really need the services the foundation provides."
Those services range from transportation to and from dialysis treatments to financial assistance for medication.