Mahomet nurse facing medical crisis of her own

Mahomet nurse facing medical crisis of her own

MAHOMET — As a career nurse, Linda Miller has spent the past 40 years putting others' needs before her own.

Now, the Carle Cancer Center employee is turning to her community for help.

"My current kidney functioning has 17 percent left — that's it," Miller said.

Miller has been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all died from.

Her mom "went into failure about the same time as I am now, and she was on dialysis for 17 years," said Miller, who cared for her and took her into her own home for the last eight months of her life.

Miller also recalled assisting at least three patients with PKD during her nursing career.

"Polycystic kidney disease is a disease where your kidneys have many cysts," Miller said. "So what happens is 50 percent of the people who have it never go into failure. The other 50 percent have a worse time or a more aggressive type that goes into failure."

Miller learned of her PKD at age 18. With both kidneys affected, Miller said she now has 20 pounds of cysts in her kidneys.

"It's kind of like you know there's a freight train comin'," she said, "but you just don't know when it's going to hit."

Miller will soon be faced with dialysis treatment to prolong her life.

"It's either every other day or daily," she said. "So it really limits you and compromises your quality of life as far as travel and being active. It wears you out and affects all of the other organs in your body."

Witnessing her mother undergo dialysis and complications from the treatment, including surgery, Miller knew she had to incorporate an active, healthy lifestyle. In fact, many community members may recognize Miller from her seemingly religious, daily 4-mile walks around Lake of the Woods over the years.

"People will say, 'Oh, you're the one who walks,'" Miller said. "I've tried to make healthy choices as much as I can. I'm not perfect, of course."

Miller's health remains important to her as she turns to the community in search of a kidney donor.

Since January, she has been on the lengthy transplant list at St. Louis' Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center.

"The wait time is five to 10 years," she said.

Miller is in dire need of an organ donation. With more than 5,000 people awaiting a kidney transplant, according to the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, she would be grateful for any donation — regardless of whether it comes from a deceased or living person.

"A deceased donor can last maybe five to 10 years, if you're lucky," she said.

"If you can get a living donor and never have been on dialysis, you can last for 15 to 30 years. So at my age, that would probably take me to the rest of my life."

With her daughters living nearby and a picture her grandchild drew in her living room, it's easy to understand Miller's plea for a prolonged life.

"At 10 percent (kidney function), you usually feel so bad you go on dialysis, so I'm getting close. It could be — this is not an exact science — six months, it could be a year. I don't think it will be much longer than a year," she said. "It's going to happen in my near future, so that's why I'm reaching out now."

The best-case scenario for Miller would be to find a donor before she requires dialysis.

Nearing 60, she isn't one to let PKD stop her from living her life to the fullest and continuing to serve others in her role as a nurse.

"I have a lot of work left to do," Miller said. "I've served other people. I've served my family. I've had a great life, but I'd like it to be great for a while longer."

Those interested in learning more about becoming a kidney donor for Miller may call Barnes' transplant center at 314-362-5365 or contact her personally at 217-369-7889.

Emily Jankauski is editor of the Mahomet Citizen, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit mcitizen.com.

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