After five transplants, Culbreath well enough to give back
Glenda Culbreath hopes her third kidney transplant is the charm. The Wadena mother of two has had three kidney transplants and two pancreas transplants since 2000. The latest was in the summer of 2006. And although she's had transplants before, s...
Glenda Culbreath hopes her third kidney transplant is the charm.
The Wadena mother of two has had three kidney transplants and two pancreas transplants since 2000. The latest was in the summer of 2006.
And although she's had transplants before, she still worries.
"I worry every day," she said. "But you just take every day as it comes."
Her children, Tommy and Ashley, also worry about their mother. But, the entire family has received support from family and friends and also their church, the Wadena Christian and Missionary Alliance Church.
"The church has been a real foundation," Culbreath said.
Culbreath plans to walk in the National Kidney Foundation Kidney Walk on Sept. 15 in St. Paul. She hopes to raise money for the foundation. People walking in the 3k walk are raising money toward helping people with kidney disease who are too sick to work or who don't have insurance.
Culbreath has set up a fund at First National Bank in Wadena under her name. People can go to the bank and ask to donate to the Kidney Walk fund, Culbreath said. All the money will go to the kidney foundation.
Part of the reason Culbreath wanted to walk is that she feels like she has been fortunate, even though she has needed several transplants. Dialysis is much worse than the recovery time after a transplant, she said.
In 2000, she first started dialysis. She had been diabetic since the time she was 16 and hadn't taken care of herself, she said.
"It made my kidneys fail," Culbreath said.
Later that year, a man who had been working with her husband in town stepped up to donate and he was a perfect match.
"That one lasted for three years and then I went back on dialysis again," she said.
Doctors told her that usually if a kidney will fail it will fail within the first year. But, Culbreath said, hers seemed to fail after three years.
She got on the donor list and was on dialysis for between six and nine months the second time. She went to dialysis three days a week.
"It's about four hours a shot, depending on the person," Culbreath said. "Some people are on that for the rest of their life."
She had been healthy enough to be a candidate for a transplant and received her second transplant in 2003. At that time, she also received a pancreas transplant because that had failed. The transplanted pancreas failed after a week.
"Luckily they had another one," she said.
The second transplant organs came from a cadaver donor. The kidney/pancreas donation came from a teenage boy from Florida, Culbreath said.
In 2003, her diabetes became really bad again, Culbreath remembered. She had really low blood sugar and passed out or blacked out sometimes.
One frightening experience happened when she was driving home from church with her kids in the car. She started driving toward Sebeka, her daughter Ashley said. Her kids didn't know why. Their mom didn't remember that at all. The kids helped her get the car to the side of the road and someone stopped to call an ambulance.
About three years after receiving the second kidney transplant, Culbreath received a third kidney, which was also from a cadaver donor. It was summer 2006. She had been on dialysis again and had been feeling very sick.
Dialysis made her very tired and she couldn't eat very well.
Over the years, Culbreath has been working at Super One in Wadena when she has felt well enough to work. She continues to work there as a cashier and said her coworkers have been very supportive.
It's now been more than a year since her last kidney transplant but Culbreath realizes she's not home free yet.
"If I make it past the three-year mark I'll be happy," she said.
Until she makes it to three years, Culbreath said she'll keep praying and she looks forward to the walk and helping others with kidney disease.
The walk on Sept. 15 will be the first time Culbreath has walked for the foundation. It is the first year she's felt well enough to walk, she said. It's her way of giving back.
"Five donors saved my life," she said.
Culbreath has become an advocate for organ donation. Her son, Tommy, has signed up to be an organ donor. Culbreath has instilled in her children that the body is a temple and it is no longer needed after death.
"If someone can give their sight, heart, liver, lungs, it can save someone else," she said.
And, she said people can donate one kidney because they don't need both. There is recovery time, she said, "but they're giving life."
She feels lucky that she's been able to have three transplants.
"I don't know if it was prayer or what," she said. "I've just been very lucky."