It's been about three years since Milton resident Ed Hilligoss' life changed, thanks to the generosity of another Delawarean.
In 2014, Hilligoss received a kidney transplant from Sussex County resident Kara Hoffman, a woman he barely knew but who offered to donate a kidney after she heard about Hilligoss's health problems. By that time, Hilligoss had been battling a rare disease for four years, a condition that caused his immune system to attack his kidneys. Dozens of medications and dialysis could not stave off the need for a kidney transplant.
Hilligoss said his health has rebounded since the transplant; he still has to take it easy and keep up with his medicine, but he said he has a new appreciation for the small things in life.
“I still have good days and bad days,” he said. “But I'm here to talk about it, thanks to Kara.”
For Milford resident Lillie Williams, kidney problems have spanned decades. The 51-year-old has been on dialysis since she was 19, and she is now waiting for her third kidney transplant.
“So many patients go through this, and it's a hard adjustment,” she said. “But there is life after dialysis.”
At first, Williams said, she struggled to stay on the dialysis machine for any longer than 20 minutes, and she hated going to treatments. After some reflection, she said she realized it was a part of life she needed to accept, and she decided to make it a positive experience by interacting with other patients and showing her concern.
“Some of these patients, once they start dialysis, some of them don't have anyone or don't think anyone cares,” she said. “But they're not alone.”
Because they consider themselves among the lucky ones, Hilligoss and Williams said, for the past few years they have made it a priority to participate in the Southern Delaware Kidney Walk, an annual fundraiser that provides support for research, education, screenings and programs for patients dealing with kidney diseases.
“People should really consider donating to it,” Hilligoss said. “I think it's good for people to get out and see other people like me – people who got through it. I do it just because I think it's the right thing to do.”
The ninth annual walk will be held at Cape Henlopen State Park Sunday, April 30. Check-in is at 10 a.m., and the walk will begin at 11 a.m. To participate, donate or for more information, go to www.kidneymd.org/events/southern-delaware-walk-april-30-2017, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-726-8732.
A representative with the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, which sponsors the walk, said about 600 people attended last year's event, raising tens of thousands of dollars. This year's goal is to raise $65,000, 80 percent of which goes directly to patient services and programs in Kent and Sussex counties.