What made you want to become an AKF Ambassador?
I wanted to become an American Kidney Fund (AKF) Ambassador to be a voice for pediatric kidney patients like me. Throughout my journey with kidney disease, I have met many adults who are advocating by sharing their stories. While kidney disease and dialysis can dramatically affect the lives of adults, it also uproots the lives of children, taking them from playing doctor one day to barely being kept alive by doctors the next. I feel the time is now for me to do my part to educate others and speak up for the kidney community, especially the children going through it.
Were you nervous about getting involved as an Ambassador at just 15 years old?
When I was seven, I won the 2013 AKF Calendar Kids Art Contest and was invited by AKF to attend The Hope Affair 2012 in Washington, D.C. It was an incredible night full of hope, possibility and potential. I met so many incredible people working hard to improve the lives of kidney patients, and even at such a young age I was humbled and amazed. I wanted to be part of that effort someday. Now at 15, I feel ready to raise my voice and join AKF in fighting kidney disease and helping people live healthier lives.
How has being an Ambassador helped you?
Being an Ambassador has given me a purpose and a voice to tell my story and make it count. Having the courage to ask for what I want is empowering. I strive to be like the famous saying — "be the change you want to see in the world."
What have you learned from being an Ambassador?
I have learned that every voice matters, and that kidney disease is a cause worth fighting for. I have also learned that every life saved is precious and can someday change the world.
Why should others become Ambassadors?
As an Ambassador, I have met many inspiring and amazing people in the kidney community. Others should become Ambassadors because the more voices you have in the chorus, the louder the song.
How would you like to stay connected to other Ambassadors?
The easiest ways to stay connected are through email and AKF's Facebook group for Ambassadors.
What is something you've learned about kidney disease and dialysis that you wish you knew a lot sooner?
I wish I knew that kidney disease is a lifelong battle and requires constant learning and patience. It is a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs, highs and lows and important lessons about life to be learned along the way. I've learned that all things are possible if you believe!
What do you wish elected officials knew about dialysis patients?
I wish elected officials knew how much dialysis patients go through — surgeries, infections, hours on the dialysis machine, expensive medications and everything in between. Dialysis patients depend on a machine to keep them alive. Their struggle is real, and they deserve our best efforts to get them off dialysis and to find a matching kidney transplant.
Do you have any advice for newly diagnosed kidney patients?
Look for the helpers in your life. Make sure to stay closest to them so you can lean on them during tough times. Most people will not understand what you are going through, but you will get through it and be tougher in the end. Make sure to take care of yourself and listen to your doctors. Finally, learn everything you can about your kidney disease and then teach others.
How does it help having a family member be part of the process?
I feel very lucky to have my mom as an essential part of my kidney journey. My mom is a trained healthcare professional, and ever since I can remember we have been going to doctor appointments together. I have always said that I love going to appointments because my mom makes them enjoyable for me. We joke together, listen to loud music and have meaningful conversations about anything on our minds. Even though there have been many bumps along the way, my mom has always been there to cheer me up and help me during the roughest times in my life. She acts as my mouthpiece when I am afraid to speak up, debates with insurance personnel when there are billing issues and reminds me of the details of my appointments when we get home. The two most valuable things I have obtained during my kidney journey are my new kidney and my relationship with my mom.
What are some interesting facts about yourself that you'd like to share?
When I was leaving The Hope Affair in 2012, I knew that I wanted to be part of the amazing AKF effort to fight kidney disease. I also knew that I wanted to be a pediatric nephrologist one day. When applying to high school two years ago, I applied to a magnet school with a health professions major. I really enjoy the program and I look forward to pursuing a career in medicine one day. Also, with all my four grandparents being Polish immigrants, I speak fluent Polish. I enjoy speaking in Polish to my grandma, my mom and my sister. In my free time, I like reading, baking, playing with my dog, spending time with my family and playing the piano. I am also a volunteer teacher of second-grade religion classes at my church.