Sheila Newman takes life day by day.
For the past 13 years she has been battling kidney disease that has led her through one transplant and countless sessions of dialysis. Today she sits anxiously in waiting for a second opportunity for a kidney that could make her life normal once more.
Newman has Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosi,s or FSGS as it is more commonly known, and it has systematically attacked her kidneys to the point where they no longer function.
“I am on hemo dialysis right now,” Newman said. “I go three days a week, four hours a day. Dialysis takes a toll on your body after a while. I’ve been on dialysis now going on four years.”
While the dialysis is essential to keeping Newman alive, it is also causing a slew of other medical problems for her such as dangerously low blood pressure and an excessive buildup of fluids. This added strain on her heart puts her at higher risk for a heart attack, thereby risking her potential as a transplant recipient.
“If anything goes wrong with while you’re on the transplant list they’ll take you off,” Newman said. “If you have a heart attack you can’t be on the transplant list.”
Aside from trying to manage health issues that are out of her control, Newman must also keep a strict eye on her water intake each day. She can only consume approximately 16 ounces of fluid a day in order to prevent a large amount of fluid buildup between dialysis treatments.
“If I eat soup it’s considered a fluid, if I eat a fruit with a lot of juice in it that’s considered part of my fluids, and if I fix oatmeal I have to include the amount of water I add to it,” Newman said. “The weekend is the hardest because you have dialysis on Friday, and you really have to watch what you eat and drink over the weekend because you won’t have dialysis again until Monday.”
Newman said that her time spent in dialysis is difficult physically and emotionally. She says many of the other patients are afflicted with diseases that automatically prevent them from receiving a transplant, and she has seen many of her friends there pass away from their disease.
“I was sitting next to a man while we were receiving dialysis the other day, and I told him I would be so glad when I got a kidney. He told me he didn’t have that option because he can’t be on the transplant list,” Newman said, fighting back tears. “I have seen so many die since I’ve been there. You get to know them, and they become like family. The longer you stay on dialysis the less chance you have of receiving a kidney.”
Seeing his sister’s struggle, Charles Soots decided to take action when he and other members of their immediate family didn’t turn out to be a perfect match.
“I went through the process myself, and a sibling is supposed to be one of the best donors there is,” Soots said. “We went through the whole process, and I took several tests. We got down to the very last test, and they saw a little something with one of my kidneys that possibly could be something down the road.”
He said he was very disappointed when he discovered that wasn’t an option.
He said that the doctors have to be completely sure that there are no recognizable risks immediately or any foreseeable risks in the future for the potential donor. They said it is also important to note that donors will not have to spend a penny of their own money for the surgery.
Newman’s situation does require a perfect match with type 0 blood. It is also important that she receive the organ from a live donor rather than a deceased one because it allows the organ a longer life.
Next, Soots decided to take to the highway and purchase billboards along U.S. Highway 421. The billboards feature a photo of Newman and read “Sheila Newman, do you know her? She needs a kidney! Can you help?” with a contact number for anyone interested in donating.
“We do business with Lamar at Farm Bureau, and they’ve always done good business,” Soots said. “I thought what better way than to advertise. There are thousands of cars that go up and down that highway every day, so I wanted to put up something simple to let people know that there is somebody who needs help and somebody wants to live.”
Soots said that since posting the billboards they have received hundreds of calls from people across the country who wanted to help. Anyone who is interested can send an application with some basic questions and a pre-stamped addressed envelope and they mail it to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center where the transplant teams reviews their paperwork and calls to set up further testing.
Soots is convinced that this method of finding a donor will pay off for the family because he believes it is in people’s nature to want to help a fellow human being.
“I know there’s a donor out there, and it could be within 5 miles of her home or it could be within 500 miles. I don’t know where that person is, but I know they’re there,” Soots said. “I think, for the most part, people in the United States want to help each other. It’s just making sure they know who needs help.”
In the meantime, Newman said she is keeping a strong faith and keeping herself healthy. She said that she knows that God is going to take care of her needs and that the phone call will come with the perfect match that she’s been waiting for. If not, then she can look forward to heaven.
“I know the Lord is going to send me that kidney,” Newman said. “I have a very supportive family, and I have the Lord to talk to. Without that I couldn’t have made it because I get so down and out sometimes. I look around, and I see somebody that’s in worse shape than I am and they have no hope. I know I have hope. If I don’t get a kidney down here when I go to heaven I will never be sick again.”
If you would like to see if you’re a match for Newman you may contact the family at 336-413-1290 or visit A Kidney For Sheila on Facebook.
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.