A Toast to Jenny — and Her New Kidney

My oldest friend in the world is Jenny. I think we first had a class together in the third grade. Here’s us looking really dorky in the 5th grade, Mrs. Castro’s class. I am in the back row.

5thgrade

In high school, we didn’t hang out much. We attended the same college, though, and ended up taking inorganic chemistry together. For her, it became her future career. For me, I scraped by with a C, and the best thing to come out of my failed attempt at stoichiometry was our friendship.

drinking

Good times in college. Lori, me, Jenny in braces, Brent and my other close friend Kristie down in front. (The NyQuil was a joke, and I think those sunglasses were trendy at the time?)

About two years later, I transferred colleges out-of-state to try and pursue a nursing degree (and ended up switching to journalism). She was one of only two friends from “back home” who came to my graduation. She met all my new college friends, helped me pack, and rode with me in the moving van the entire 14-hour drive from Las Cruces, N.M. to Corpus Christi, Texas, where I had taken a job as a copy editor at the newspaper.

newyears2000

Yes, there are pictures of us not drinking, but they’re not as fun. Jenny is on the far left, I’m on the far right. This is “Y2K.”

Jenny’s always had a harder life than most of us. She was raised by her father, who was a good dad but was in a motorcycle gang and hung out with a really rough crowd. There was not much money to send her to college, but she did it.  After 7 years, she finally graduated. Like she did for me, I attended her graduation, along with our then-boyfriends, now-husbands.

I’ve since moved from Texas to New York to Mexico City, but Jenny and I have always been in touch. She got married, got a great job, bought a house, and is the proud mom to dogs Maggie and Annabel.

About a year and a half ago, during one of my trips home, Jenny pointed to her ankles, which were swollen. Her cholesterol and blood pressure were far beyond normal. A nephrologist diagnosed her with an autoimmune kidney disease known as IgA nephropathy. She started taking medicines and thought all would be well.

But each time I came home, Jenny seemed a bit more worse off. The swelling was expanding, moving upward, and hurting her. In September of last year, even her eyelids were swollen. She would press her puffy legs and it left lasting indentions in her flash. It meant two things: The medicine wasn’t working, and her kidneys were failing.

After finding a better doctor, she started more aggressive treatment in December, and promptly lost 40 pounds – all of it from fluid her kidneys were not flushing out. Since then, thrice-a-week dialysis has helped her stay healthy, but for a young woman who works a full-time job, it’s not a solution. A transplant is.

Jenny emailed me today: Her transplant is finally scheduled for June 26. A relative of hers is donating a kidney. I am ecstatic.

Through it all, she has been amazingly stoic. And optimistic. A few weeks ago, when I last visited, she even stayed up until past midnight with me, at a blues bar. As a group of us from high school caught up on recent goings-on, she shrugged off the murmurs of pity from us. But it was hard to deny: When she started sharing her struggle, I definitely felt a bit silly for whining about jet lag and traffic. As the night wore on, and we were the only two left from our group, an older woman came up to us at the bar and dragged us onto the dance floor.

Before we knew it, it was like old times again: we were dancing, in a bar. This time of age and far less reckless than our late teens/early 20s. Jenny may have been abstaining (no alcohol for her, of course), but it was as fun as it ever was.


18 thoughts on “A Toast to Jenny — and Her New Kidney

  1. Anola Cuevas Buhidar says:

    Hey there! Loved your story. Good to hear a story about Jennifer before she was a lab tech. I actually had the pleasure of training her. She came to us when she was wet behind the ears. And now look at her! A LEAD TECH IN CHEMISTRY! If anything I know in my heart, Jennifer will be okay. I have faith.
    Live,Love & Laugh…….Anola

  2. CLAUDIA says:

    Joy, Thanks for sharing this pictures of old times of you and Jennifer…They are always fun to see! All I have to say to Jennifer during this difficult times is to keep the good spirits that she has always had. We all know good has to come out of this. Also, many thanks to her sister for doing this very special thing for her.

  3. Isla says:

    Hi! That was a wonderful story. I’m so glad that Jenny is getting her kidney. We’re all very happy for her. We’ll definitely need to have a party to celebrate this joyous occasion.
    BTW, my uncle used to live in that colonia.

  4. Julie says:

    Praise God!! She has been in my prayers for so long. I will continue to pray for her and her donor as well now. Please send Jenny my love!

  5. Jenny says:

    Thank you everyone for your kind sweet words. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers as well. I will need them all.

    I’m getting a new kidney, I’m getting a new kidney, I’m getting a new kidney. :):):)

  6. Brandi says:

    Jen has become a really close work friend over the past year and to finally see this day come for her is wonderful! The fact that she has managed to come to work every single day through all of this has been simply inspiring to me. I’m sure there have many days where work was the last place she wanted to be, and resting at home seemed like such a better option. But, everyday she shows up bright-eyed and cheery. She has not let this kidney battle defeat her!

    Jen I’m so happy this is finally happening for you!

  7. Vickie Jeter says:

    I am so very happy to hear that my sister is getting her new kidney. Jenny is the most amazing girl I know. She never complained about her condition and kept moving forward in her daily life. As far as I know there were 6 willing friends and family members that stepped up to offer their kidney. Evidently this shows what kind of person she is to have so many willing people to offer their kidney.What a blessing she is to the world. Even though I am 20 years older, I want to be like her when I grow up. It has been a pleasure to read other peoples thoughts about my sister. I love you very much Jennifer. I do think about you often, and I pray for speedy healing for both.

  8. Sally Buck says:

    I am also so happy that Jenny is getting her new KIDNEY. A friend of mine got a kidney from her sister about 4 years ago and is in AMAZING health today. Good healthy days are coming sweetie. Hang in there…many people are praying for you and John. I love you!
    Sally Buck (james’ mom and joy’s friend?)

  9. Louis Gonzales says:

    Hey!!! Great news for Jenny….I pray all goes well for her. I remember you telling me about this a while back. Not sure why I stopped in to read your blog today, but glad I got to read the good news. I will continue to pray and check in for other news.

    Very cool….

  10. Virginia says:

    Thank you for giving us another look at Jennifer. She truly is an amazing girl with an outlook on her future that can only be admired. It’s friends like you, Joy, that keep Jennifer positive with all that life has handed her. We are all thrilled that Jen will be getting her new kidney, and we’ll miss her optimism while she’s recovering. Thanks to her donor, too, as she is quite literally a hero. Thanks be to God!

  11. Jenny says:

    You guys are all so sweet. One of my friends was wanting to know my sister’s name. Her name is Lana. She is my younger sister. We really are not that close, even though we share a birthday. She is 2 years younger than me. I am hoping this gift she is giving me will bring us closer.

    If anyone’s counting down, I have 23 days and 9 diaylsis treatments to go. hip hip hooray!!!!!

  12. Martha says:

    That’s just wonderful news. We are so glad Jenny is finally getting her kidney. Steven & I pulled out an old photo of all of us at your college graduation, Joy. The group photo in Old Mesilla.

  13. Jenny says:

    Well it’s been 2 weeks since the transplant. Doctors say I am doing well. I am keeping mysdelf rested and should be back out in the world in 3-4 weeks.

    Thanks for all your prayers,’
    Jenny

  14. Latalie Schooley says:

    I’m so glad to hear and Jen is doing good now. I loved the story of your younger days! Jen, thank you for being such a fighter withthis battle. you are an inspiration to many. May God bless you through everything! Love always, Latalie

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