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Kidney patients group tells families ‘don’t lose hope’

Keisha Harrison held a ballroom full of guests spellbound as she told her emotion-filled story of her wait for a kidney match at the Christmas celebration hosted by the Chicago Association of Kidney Patients at the Doubletree Hotel in Alsip, on December 9.

Harrison, a single mother, is one of many patients throughout the city who have received a kidney transplant after undergoing years of dialysis treatment, and enduring years of waiting for a kidney. With tears in her voice she said that “despite being called to the very door of the hospital four times,” she did not give up. “I’m going to fight this battle,” she decided early on in her diagnosis. On Harrison’s fifth call everything meshed. The available kidney was her match.

Harrison was not the only person present who could testify to defying death. Playing saxophone as the evening’s entertainment, “the Sax Preacher” was diagnosed in 1987 with an incurable lung disorder and told he would never play the saxophone again, and that he had 18 months to live. It was his testimony that a higher power intervened and led him to a successful four-decade career in music.

Irma Moody, as president of the Chicago Association of Kidney Patients for 19 years, says of Harrison, “Her story is not unusual,” and encourages patients and their families to “hold on to their faith.” Following Moody at the podium, the MC for the evening shared that he was on dialysis for 15 years before receiving a transplant.

Moody knows firsthand how challenging it can be for patients to undergo years of dialysis while waiting and hoping for a kidney. Moody’s husband Felton was a dialysis patient for some time and died of kidney failure. It was his illness and subsequent death that spurred Moody to create the Chicago Association of Kidney Patients.

Moody credits the success and longevity of CAKP to kidney patients themselves and their families, and to the support of doctors, other medical personnel, and Social Services practitioners as well.

Dr. Kareem Simpson, board certified in Internal Medicine and in Nephrology, specializing in Renal Care, was presented an award recognizing her commitment to her patients. “It’s a pleasure to see many of my patients here, outside the hospital, enjoying life,” she said. Simpson is affiliated with Advocate Hospitals: Trinity Hospital, Little Company of Mary Hospital, and Advocate Christ Hospital. She also provides treatment to her patients at Metro South Hospital in Blue Island.

Accepting her award she expressed her gratitude to CAKP for at times being the glue that keeps patients hopeful through its patient outreach. “It takes a village,” Dr. Simpson said.

Dr. Rita McGill, a Nephrologist and Medical Director of University of Chicago Medicine’s DaVita Park Manor Dialysis Center was also recognized. McGill is “a prolific researcher, publishing extensively on outcomes of vascular access and other dialysis treatment.” Dr. McGill is a living donor, having donated a kidney to a patient in 2014.

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