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Hernando County woman prepares to receive brother's kidney in transplant operation

Jennifer Medina, 32, of Ridge Manor has an incurable kidney disease and has been undergoing dialysis three times a week.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Jennifer Medina, 32, of Ridge Manor has an incurable kidney disease and has been undergoing dialysis three times a week.

RIDGE MANOR — As she prepares for what she hopes will be a life-saving kidney transplant in July, Jennifer Medina is going through a range of emotions.

Concerns for the welfare of her husband, Ronald Medina, 39, and their sons Kenneth, 12, and Ronnie, 7. Gratitude for her brother Paul Scott, who is donating a kidney to his big sister.

But there is also relief.

"I've known it's been coming for 13 years, so I've gotten used to it,'' said Medina, 32. "I've had time to build up."

Plagued with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a rare and incurable kidney disease, Medina faces end-stage renal failure and has been undergoing kidney dialysis three times a week since March.

Doctors determined that her best hope is a new kidney, and family members immediately stepped forward. Her brother Paul, 37, of Ellenboro, N.C., was found to be the best match.

But Medina's case carries a complication. Her blood contains antibodies, likely developed during her pregnancies, that could fuel organ rejection. They must be cleansed from her body in advance of the transplant.

Although doctors at Shands at the University of Florida and Tampa General Hospital have been treating Medina, they all recommended she pursue the transplant at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, which has a 10-year history of dealing with such situations.

Since dialysis began, Medina has had to curtail her working hours as a customer service manager at Publix in Temple Terrace, which further curtails the family finances. Her husband is the stay-at-home caregiver.

Medical and travel expenses for the family are estimated at more than $25,000, plus up to $5,000 a month for anti-rejection medications. Some but not all of the expenses will be covered by insurance.

That's when her neighbors stepped up as well.

The Ridge Manor Community Center, where Medina's mother-in-law and sister-in-law are constants at activities and programs, recently staged a benefit dinner, silent auction and bingo night to help with the family's medical expenses.

The event, the first time in four years the organization held a fundraiser for an individual, raised $4,070, said the center's board president, John Shoppa. Some 180 people attended; businesses and individuals donated 101 items for the auction; and a donation jar was stuffed with $700 in contributions.

Shoppa said the group may sponsor another fundraiser for Medina in the fall, when the current schedule of events has a break and the snowbirds return. The center's weekly bingo games pay for operating the nonprofit in the community of some 5,000 residents.

Other donations for the woman's care can be made through the National Foundation of Transplants, contacted on its website, transplants.org, and designating her name, Jennifer Medina.

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

Hernando County woman prepares to receive brother's kidney in transplant operation 05/12/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 7:23pm]
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