People with kidney disease often choose to give back to others struggling with the disease. They can become Kidney Peer Mentors, lead Kidney PATH workshops, or volunteer at NKFM events. One of those people is Patricia (Pat) Salemi, a retired professor from Saginaw Valley State University. In 1996, at age 46, Pat contracted bacterial meningitis and fell into a coma for seven weeks. Her kidneys failed and she lost the blood supply to her toes, requiring surgery to remove all of them. She also started dialysis. After reaching out to us at the NKFM, we connected her with one of our Kidney Peer Mentors, who helped her cope and answered her many questions.
In 2009, Pat received a kidney from a deceased donor. “I had some bumps along the way but I overcame them,” she says. The following year, she trained to become an NKFM Kidney Peer Mentor. Peer Mentors are individuals living with kidney disease who have a positive outlook on managing their disease and are committed to providing support for others. Most importantly, they help empower newly diagnosed kidney patients to move forward with their lives. By understanding the kidney patient experience, they help people one on one understand kidney disease and explore their options. Most importantly, Peer Mentors make a difference by being living proof that life does not end with kidney disease.
“I think about my illness and what happened. I met so many people in the Peer Mentor program and was able to give back. It was very rewarding.” She also reached out on her own, visiting dialysis units to talk to kidney patients and answer their questions.
In 2015, Pat led her first Kidney PATH (Personal Action Toward Health), an eight-week workshop that helps people living with chronic kidney disease understand, manage and improve their health and quality of life. She has led two KPATHs a year and just started her eighth workshop recently in Shelby Township. “I love meeting such wonderful people,” she says about the workshop participants.
Pat, now 70, and her husband Tony, live in Clinton Township. They have three adult children who were supportive over the years. Pat and Tony enjoy golfing, bowling and traveling. Pat also belongs to a small Italian Club, and her profile is in their current newsletter. Tony threw her a 70th birthday party with about 85 people there. “It was so nice to see all the different aspects of my life come together.”
The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan and our collaborative partner, the National Kidney Foundation, offer many online and phone-based resources for people with and at-risk for kidney disease. During these trying times when meeting face to face or gathering in groups is discouraged, we’re here to help you stay engaged.