At age 23, Tederra Coleman had no symptoms of end-stage renal disease. But the results of her routine blood work, performed during an annual gynecological visit, said something different.
“I was told that my kidneys weren’t working at all,” Coleman said of the deadly disease, “and that they wanted to start emergency dialysis through my neck immediately. I declined.”
She said she “cried the entire day,” and that the following day, she was told that the treatments “had to be done within six weeks.”
But she did not start the dialysis until six months later, after experiencing her first symptoms.
“I had yellow hands and face; severe cramping in my legs,” said Coleman, now 34, of Pompano Beach. “Everything went down from there.”
Coleman’s 17-year-old daughter, Ternisha Williams, was not able to donate a kidney to her mom because they have different blood types. But she gave her the next best thing.
Since last October, Ternisha has been diligently giving her mother hemodialysis treatments at home. Both mother and daughter have been trained to use the NxStage® System One™, a machine that acts as Coleman’s external kidney.
“When I get home from school,” Ternisha, a junior at Pompano High School, said, “I prepare for my mom’s treatment. I watch to make sure that she is OK and that everything goes fine. I do this about five times each week.”
Ternisha, who is also a cheerleader, described her relationship with her mother as “really close,” adding that “it needs to be done and is a part of our daily routine.”
She continued: “Anyway, she’s my mom and gives me everything I need and never complains.”
End-stage renal disease, or chronic kidney failure, is the permanent loss of kidney function. The three main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, according to the Renal Support Network's Web site.
The long-term use of certain medications can also be a factor.
Ternisha, an only child, said she plans to become a doctor, and the experience of caring for her mother is “really preparing me for my career.”
She continued: “I worry a lot about my mom now, even when I’m in school, so attending college will be a lot harder.”
Coleman said that when Ternisha goes away to college, she will administer her own treatments. To prepare for this, she graduated from Atlantic Technical Center as a dialysis technician.
“My doctor just needs to sign off on it,” Coleman said. “I’m unable to work now, but can administer treatment, if necessary.”
Now, Coleman said, with her daughter’s help, “I only need to visit the [Jackson Memorial] hospital once every month to deliver my blood samples. I now have control over my treatment.”
Coleman, who has a rare O-positive blood type, has been on a donor’s list for a year.
“When I started dialysis, I was not compliant,” she said, explaining her delay in taking the treatments. “I would go maybe once per month or whenever I felt like it.”
At one time, Coleman said, she missed three months worth of treatments.
“They tell you that if you miss your treatment for two weeks, you will die. I’m not saying that I tried them to see if they were telling the truth, but in reality, I did,” she said.
There are more than 169,000 people on the donor’s list, waiting for a kidney.
“You don’t have a number, but they won’t take you off,” she said.
Coleman’s doctor, she said, “wants me to have a kidney from a healthy person; someone who is heart or brain-dead.”
Many dialysis patients, Coleman said, have “simply stopped caring.”
She said: “I cry a lot of times, but at the end of the day, I know that there are a lot of things that I want out of life. You don’t have to die from whatever you are going through.”
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Ternisha Williams, left, helps her mother, Tederra Coleman, right, with her dialysis treatments.