Kidney Transplant and Medical Costs

Hi everyone, this is Joe Koenig, the executive chef at Press Bistro in Johnstown, PA.   I am trying to raise funds to assist me with expenses for a kidney transplant and for the aftercare medications and treatments. I have Polycystic Kidney Disease(PKD).  I was diagnosed with this in my mid 20's.  Basically, this is an inherited disease, where cysts develop in your kidneys, and over time they get larger.  This affects your blood pressure and your kidney function/filtration and can eventually shut them down.  As of yet, there is no cure, only continued treatment, dialysis, or a transplant.
For most of my life since I was diagnosed, I never had any major problems; I was on blood pressure medication to keep it regulated.  I also exercised regularly and watched my diet, and had regular doctor visits and check ups.  Since this is an inherited disease, we assumed I got it from my father because my mother did not have it.  My father passed away at 58, and did not have kidney problems up to that point; so there was no history of when or if I would have problems with my kidneys.  I never felt that I would have to worry about transplants or dialysis in my life. 
However, within the past six months, the disease has really progressed.  My kidney function has declined to where I am now in stage 5/End Stage Renal Disease. Luckily I haven't developed any signs of being uremic or becoming toxic from my kidney filtration being so low, so I have been able to avoid having to go on dialysis.  My best hope is to find a matching donor and get the transplant done.  Also, I have recently finished up the testing to get on the organ donor list, and should be activated by the end of the month.  This is going to be expensive, I will be on expensive medications for the rest of my life so that I don't reject the new kidney.

Aside from my kidney issues, everything else has been pretty good.  I moved back to Johnstown this past January to help my family out;  which is kind of ironic currently, because they are helping me right now.  I get to spend time with my amazing niece and nephew, and I get to watch them grow and learn.   I have a great career as a chef.  It has been an awesome journey with many ups and downs, but it has ALL been worth it.  It started with culinary school at IUP and down to Asheville, North Carolina(where I really developed most of my skills), then to Pittsburgh briefly, and back here to Johnstown.  
I never thought I would end up back where I started, but  things happen, and you have to make sacrifices and make hard life decisions.  I tell myself, "I left here a soldier, and came back a seasoned general";  I handle my business.  Moving back was probably fate, though, my family and friends have been the biggest help going through this process and just amazing.   And my sister is just  the best, I would be probably lost right now if she wasn't doing everything that she is doing for me.   It's hard because I'm used to just doing things on my own, but I don't know how I would have handled all of this by myself.

Although I have PKD, I don't let it consume me.  I enjoy working out three to four times a week.  Just everything about it is positive; keeps my mind and body in the right spot.  As a chef, I do work a lot, but I love every aspect of it.  From creating dishes, educating guests and co-workers on food, making people happy from something I made, leading my team and people, hitting my numbers, putting in work with the crew, the grind, all of it.
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Joe Koenig
Johnstown, PA

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