Walk for Kidneys Team Spotlight: Team JK Kidney Bean
June 11, 2014
JK Kidney Bean: In honor of James Teng and Kristen Edson
When Kristen and James met in 2009, they were coworkers at the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago. When James was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2010, Kristen made the altruistic decision to go through the living organ donation process to help her friend.
James was put on dialysis soon after his diagnosis. He would need a kidney transplant; however, the average wait for a kidney transplant is three to five years, or sometimes more. His options for a living donation were also limited. Originally from Taiwan, James’ family now lives in the United States; unfortunately, not a single member has the same blood type as him, making them incompatible for a kidney transplant.
When it became clear James would need to find an alternative for a kidney transplant, he jokingly went around the library asking his coworkers for a kidney, and to his surprise, Kristen said yes!
Kristen describes James as outgoing, fun, and generally a carefree person. “I don’t know a single person that doesn’t like him,” Kristen said.
James admits he was initially shocked when he learned he had kidney disease, but tried to remain positive.
“I was a little depressed and didn’t want to show it, but people noticed the difference because I’m usually so happy-go-lucky” James said. “I put humor into the whole thing, because what else can you do?”
It turned out Kristen’s kidney was a perfect match for James. She had no history of kidney disease, was around the same age, and healthy.
After undergoing the living donation process, Kristen and James got involved with the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois and shared their story. In June 2012, Kristen and James participated in their first Walk for Kidneys.
This will be their second year participating in the walk, and they currently have one of the top fundraising teams. Kristen attributes their team’s success to the overwhelming support from loved ones.
“I walk for James, but also through the whole process I found [kidney disease] affects a lot of people,” Kristen said. “Attention should be brought to the issue because it is preventable.”
While Kristen walks for James and for others affected by kidney disease, James feels forever grateful and indebted to Kristen for her selflessness.
“Kristen is my angel,” James said. “I just feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world.”
Kristen, now living in Lincoln Square and James, in Buena Park, remain close friends to this day.
Since his kidney transplant, James is able to live freely, without the limitations of dialysis treatments. He is excited to travel and hopes to visit his extended family in Taiwan sometime in the next couple of years.
“I am much happier since the transplant,” James said. “I feel like I can see the sun again.”
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