New Year, New Kidney

As we enter the new year my daughter Cait is preparing for the next step of her journey, a kidney transplant. It is because of this opportunity to return to her normal life that we reach out for support. Cait has end stage renal failure caused by a rare autoimmune disease. She spends 10 hours every day hooked up to a peritoneal dialysis machine. (Pictured below). It is a life-saving process that we are grateful for, but it takes its toll. This kidney transplant will allow Cait to stop dialysis, return to college and move forward with the rest of her life.

Cait's Financial Needs
Instead of being placed on the kidney transplant list which has a 2 - 3 year wait time, Cait reached out to her family and friends for a living donor option. Where we do not know exactly which one of these amazing people will be Cait's donor, we do know that this is projected to happen near the beginning of February, 2018. We are fortunate to have insurance, but this will not cover all of the expenses. Most of the anticipated expenses will come from the anti-rejection drugs that Cait will need to take for the rest of her life. One of the drugs she will take for the first 3 months will cost approximately $600 a month, even with insurance. Our insurance does cover the medical expenses of the donor, but not their travel or housing. Part of the funds gathered here will go to offsetting these costs.

Cait returned home from her 1st year of college plagued by symptoms that the doctors thought were tied to an infection. After multiple visits she ended up in the emergency room on May 22, where we got the first indication of just how serious things were. After looking at her test results a doctor walked in asking us who Cait’s kidney doctor was…Cait didn’t have one, she was a healthy 19-year-old college student. The truth is Cait’s kidneys were failing and no one knew why. Two days later she was on dialysis, but doctors still did not know what was causing the failure; she was not responding to the antibiotics so it was not an infection. The next step was a kidney biopsy.

On May 30th Cait was diagnosed with Goodpasture's disease. Goodpasture's is a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the membranes that surround the kidneys and the lungs. This disease is literally a 1 in a million disease diagnosis.  The biopsy showed that at least 65% of Cait’s kidneys were severely damaged. Instead of spending her summer preparing for her second year of college, Cait spent the majority of her summer in the hospital and getting use to her new normal. This meant Cait came home from the hospital with a tunnel catheter for hemodialysis and a stomach catheter for future peritoneal dialysis and a bag full of medication hoping to regulate her body's systems.

After being home for a week Cait suffered two seizures at home. This day was probably the scariest day of my life; I thought I was losing her. Back to the hospital, more tests, more medication, and then back home.

Two weeks later Cait was back in the hospital, the disease had gone from Cait’s kidneys to her lungs. Thankfully this was the only time the autoimmune disease presented itself in Cait’s lungs; for those of you who do not know Cait well, singing is her passion. The summer continued with additional tests, visits to the hospital, complications due to the immunosuppressant drugs she was taking, and a lot of waiting. By this point it was obvious that Cait’s kidney function was not going to return, but we needed to make sure the autoimmune disease was gone before we could move forward with the transplant process.

New Hope
On October 31 I received the call we had been waiting for, Cait had been accepted into the transplant process at MUSC and was scheduled to meet her transplant team on November 14. The team is amazing and we began the living donor process as I started testing on the 14th and we put our plea out to family and friends. Cait's sister is being tested, her cousin is being tested and five amazing young people that Cait has been fortunate to call friend are also being tested. Generosity is Cait's hope.

Cait's Spirit
Through all of this Cait has been amazing. Her strength and humor have kept us all going. She does not complain as this disease alters her young body in so many ways. She does not complain as she has to seriously consider if her life-long dream of being a performer is even possible any more. Early on in this journey Cait commented on how this experience has done something good for her, it made it possible to move past all of those things she use to think were important and to focus on the simple joys of life.

Your donation will help keep the focus on the simple joys of life and healing by removing some of the stress that comes along with impending financial burdens. If you cannot donate please share. As mentioned earlier, all funds will go towards Cait’s medical expenses as well as helping the living donor with their donor-based expenses.

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Beth Schlieger 
Bluffton, SC
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