Jenna is a 32 year old single mother who is currently in Kidney failure, on dialysis and in need of a transplant.
Jenna has been my best friend for the last 22 years and for the last 18 years I’ve watched on the sidelines as she has struggled with her health. I vaguely remember what her life was like before she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 14. Through everything she has been through she still remains to keep a positive and optimistic attitude. She is one of the most talented and motivated people I know. It is hard seeing her ideas and dreams be crushed by health aliments out of her control. She is a single mom to a 7 year old boy that is her motivation for continuing the fight. Jenna has people reach out all the time and ask how they can help. She often tells me she just does not know how to ask for or receive help. She does not want to be a burden. This fundraiser was created to help her in a way that will make her life a little easier. Below is a timeline of some of the events that have happened in the last 18 years to get a better idea of what her life has been like: May 2004 Type I Diabetes Diagnosis (at age 14) Was sick at home with what we thought was the flu for several days, but it wasn’t getting any better. Then in the middle of the night I started having severe pain, every part of me hurt. My mom helped me into the car and I arrived barely conscious to our local emergency room with a blood sugar of 1200 – the highest they had ever seen there. Transferred via ambulance to DeVos Children’s Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids, MI Spent one week in hospital August 2009 Addison’s Diagnosis I was sick most of the summer then it got even worse and hypoglycemic seizures started happening any time my blood sugar dropped. I ended up in the Emergency Room but they couldn’t figure out why my potassium was so dangerously high. They were worried my heart was going to stop. My Mom actually figured out the Addison’s diagnosis but had to fight with multiple doctors just to get the proper test run. Once it was confirmed, they gave her a massive dose of steroids and she started improving right away. September 2010 First coma, from hypoglycemic seizures, lasted just over 24 hours August 2013 Spent 10 days in hospital with beginning stages of liver failure, doctor said I wouldn’t make it to my next birthday. It ended up being linked to my implanted birth control. Once my implant was removed my liver enzymes finally returned to normal. March 2014 Found out I was pregnant. I was told by my doctor to have an abortion. I was told by another doctor that I would miscarry. I was told at my first maternal medicine appt that there was a good chance I wouldn’t make it through the pregnancy. August 2014 I was found unconscious at home and had multiple seizures before being found. I was 5 months pregnant. This was the beginning of my second coma which lasted over 48 hours. I woke up Inside an MRI machine, where they were checking my brain function for the second time. Doctors were bringing up the possibility of keeping me alive until they could take Tyson via c section. Spent 2 months in the hospital after waking up from the coma and had my baby shower while still in the hospital. October 25, 2014 I was rushed to the ER, sick with a stomach flu. I told them something was wrong with my baby because he just wasn’t moving like he normally would, it took many hours for them to listen to me. After further tests they rushed me in for emergency c-section. Tyson was born 7 ½ weeks early but in relatively good health and spent 1 week in the NICU before going home. January 2018 My third coma It lasted 3 days and was the scariest one. My temperature hit 105 at one point and they could not get her to stop seizing. A nurse later told me that they believe I had 8 seizures in all. They medicated me and put me on a ventilator. After this coma I told myself I could never end up in another coma because if I did, I didn’t believe I would ever wake up again. During this time, there was the first indication of kidney problems. My kidneys took a hard hit during this coma October 2018 The first time I heard the term chronic kidney disease. My doctor said it was something we needed to watch, but nothing further was done at this point. May 2019 First time I felt sick and felt the symptoms of CKD (chronic kidney disease). Ended up in the hospital for 6 days and received my official CKD diagnosis Was strongly warned that my kidneys were deteriorating at a fast rate. November 2019 Had a seizure which left me with a severely broken ankle. Had to undergo surgery to get an external fixator. I was on bedrest for 3 months. Because of the severity of the break and my advanced diabetes, the idea that it could result in amputation was brought up. But thankfully it healed and another surgery was performed to remove the external fixator and insert several rods for a permanent fix. April 2021 A diabetic ulcer on my other foot that lasted for months eventually turned into a bone infection and went septic. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital then was sent home on IV antibiotics thru a port in my neck. A week later I was back in a different hospital and ended up with an amputation of my big toe and part of the top of my foot. July 2021 My body went into shock due to fluid overload (caused by my poor kidney function) resulting in a 3 week hospital stay. I was swelled from head to toe. The fluid retention continued in the hospital (even while on 2 strong diuretics) until I was 65 lbs over my normal weight. All the medications given to me during my previous infections had been the final blow to my kidneys and the doctors had to start me on hemodialysis while in the hospital. Nov 2021 After 3 months of going to a clinic 3 days a week (6 hours each time, including drive time) for hemodialysis I decided I wanted to try at-home peritoneal dialysis instead. I underwent a surgery to insert a peritoneal catheter into my stomach and started at-home dialysis after it was healed (which was the day before Thanksgiving) These are the current list of Physicians she follows with: Endocrinologist Dialysis team (in GR) Nephrologist Primary Care Physician Podiatrist Rheumatologist Gastroenterologist Kidney Transplant Team (in Ann Arbor) Since starting dialysis, Jenna has been going through the process of being placed on the transplant list at U of M Hospital. She has the opportunity to not only receive a kidney transplant, but also a pancreas transplant. This news is exciting and finally an ounce of HOPE that she can one day live a normal healthy life. These 2 transplants would completely transform her and her son’s life. She would no longer be sick. She would no longer need dialysis, an insulin pump, countless hospital visits, loads of medications, and fears that she wont live to see her child graduate elementary school. While talking to me earlier tonight she said to me “I have such a fear that I won’t make it to see my transplant day” She expressed that there are nights she goes to sleep and does not know if she will wake up the next day. That is a hard thought to process as it is, but to also have a fear of leaving behind a child is more gut wrenching. Every dollar will make a difference and help ease some of these stressors. The most important needs being: A hired “caregiver” for Jenna. This person will act as a care coordinator of sorts and help her manage doctor appointments, medication refills, medical supply refills as well as attending appointments and taking notes to make sure no information is missed. This person will also be trained on the home dialysis procedures. A reliable car: Jenna has multiple appointments back and forth to U of M Hospital which is located 2 ½ hours from where she lives. These appointments are often scheduled months in advance and rescheduling is not an option to remain active on the transplant list. The 2 vehicles that she currently has access to are both out of commission. Another need/goal is for Jenna to have a savings nest egg to help with the household bills for the duration of this next year while she is in the waiting period. Jenna and Tyson reside with Jenna’s mom, who has to often miss out on the opportunity to work as she has to step in and help Jenna out in many ways, one of the biggest being making sure Tyson is taken care of. They all live in a 2 bedroom townhouse where space is an issue as Jenna and Tyson share a bedroom with an abundance of medical machines and supplies. Another goal would be a move to a bigger home that would offer better quality of life for the 3 of them. Thank you for taking the time to read this and investing in the chance to help pave the way for Jenna and Tyson to have a normal life! Here is an excerpt from Jenna’s mother Dorothy: “Watching your sick child fight for their life is nothing a mother should ever have to do. I have been in this position far too many times over the past 18 years. I have watched Jenna miraculously pull through and defy the odds time and time again. I have cried with her, laughed with her, and fought the fight with her. I have asked God why her? And why couldn’t we trade places? I have sat by her bedside watching the medical staff poke her dozens of times just to get one IV into her – then tell me they will need a second one as well. I have held her during seizures as she bit her tongue and screamed. And I’ve saved her life when she was unconscious from a low blood sugar more times than I can possibly count. Jenna has had to fight to stay alive for almost 20 years, missing out on so many things that she should have been doing instead. She deserves to know what a normal life feels like. Because despite all she has been through she still loves hard and always gives to anyone in need. Jenna still makes goals for herself and desperately tries to reach them despite fighting uphill all the way. Having this kidney or kidney/pancreas transplant will give her the chance to reach those goals and be the mom that she wants to be for her son Tyson.”