Three-time kidney transplant recipient connects others with community resources
Linda Thomas, of Detroit, is all too familiar with chronic kidney disease. It’s a diagnosis she shares with her father, sister, uncle and first cousin. A self-proclaimed, “busy-body,” she does not let her kidney disease hold her back. In fact, she is open about it.
A three-time kidney transplant recipient, Thomas, 56, is a grandmother, certified Beaumont Transplant Peer Mentor and a National Kidney Foundation of Michigan-trained PATH leader. She’s candid and empathetic with others living with kidney disease. And she knows she’s connected with a student when they tell her they’re now taking their kidney disease and its management more seriously.
Said Thomas, “People want to hear real stories. I share my experiences and many can relate on a personal level. My hope is to motivate them to learn more about their kidney disease, manage it and support one another.”
Thomas admits every time she works with a PATH class, she too, learns something new. The PATH program, or Personal Action Toward Health, was developed to help adults better manage long-term health conditions, like chronic kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, depression and asthma. PATH classes can be general, or specific to a chronic condition. Thomas leads Kidney PATH for those living with chronic kidney disease. The community classes are also open to family members and caregivers.
“PATH class students support each other,” said Thomas. “While I can’t answer medical questions because I’m not a nurse or doctor, I can inspire. Students seem to like it when I share my experiences. I preach the importance of self-management: taking control of your health. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, don’t live in denial. I tell my students, ‘You have to make a choice to be more proactive.’”
Thomas has a lot to share with her students having been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease about 25 years ago. She’s familiar with kidney dialysis and the benefits of receiving a kidney transplant. Her first kidney transplant was in 1999, second in 2008 and third about one-year ago.
She says, “A kidney transplant beats sitting in that dialysis chair any day of the week.”
Because of her positive attitude and her commitment to self-management, Thomas’ transplant team at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak invited and encouraged her to consider becoming a peer mentor to those patients awaiting a kidney transplant. She accepted their invitation and went through the day-long training to become certified. The Transplant Services Peer Mentoring Program is a collaboration with the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan.
Explained Beaumont’s Susan Walker, a transplant social worker who oversees the program, “Linda is a wonderful role model and supporter of others facing similar medical concerns. She is knowledgeable and open. Peer mentors, like Linda, make a huge impact in helping others deal with the unpredictability of chronic kidney disease and in staying the course.”
As a peer mentor, Thomas leads by example and encourages patients to live a full life. She also advocates taking advantage of community resources, including PATH classes. She’s there to listen, and offer support.