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Waiting for a Kidney

Tonya Huff is a loving 41 year old Christian, wife, mother, and teacher who grew up and lives in the Appalachian town of Tyner, Kentucky. In June 2020, during routine bloodwork for diabetes, it was found that Tonya’s kidney function had decreased drastically to 40%. Although Tonya is diabetic, doctors determined that diabetes and its side effects were not the cause of her decreased kidney function.

After ultrasounds and biopsies of her kidneys, she was diagnosed with a very rare kidney disease called Fibrillary Glumerulonephritis (FGN). Most cases of FGN are caused by types of malignancy (cancer). Because of this, Tonya went through numerous cancer screenings including mammograms, CT scans, colonoscopy, and bone marrow biopsy to rule out any chances of cancer. After testing, the Mayo clinic began testing samples for a DNA Marker JB9, and it was found that Tonya’s kidney disease was caused by that DNA marker. By this time, Tonya’s kidney function had continued to decrease to 30%.

In March of 2021, doctors began treating Tonya with rituximab infusions to attempt to delay any further decrease of kidney function. After 3 treatments, it was determined that the infusions were not helping. With medication and diet changes, doctors kept her off of dialysis for as long as possible.

In July of 2023, Tonya’s kidney function had continued to decrease to 8% and she entered End Stage Renal Failure. She began having other health complications such as constant nausea, continuous fluid retention, trouble sleeping, constant itching, increased neuropathy, and frequent chest pains to the point that dialysis could not be delayed any longer. On July 18, 2023 Tonya began weekly in-clinic hemodialysis treatments in Corbin, Kentucky at which point she also had to begin medical leave and pause her teaching career.

Tonya currently continues dialysis, but needs a kidney transplant to survive. Because Tonya is so young, doctors are urging her to find a “living donor” because kidneys donated by a living person last twice as long as kidneys from deceased donors. Kidneys from deceased donors typically last only 10 years, and have higher risks of being rejected by recipients than kidneys from living donors. Tonya’s immediate family members and spouse are not able to donate due to different medical issues that they each have. Tonya is currently on the transplant wait list at 3 different hospitals and is currently being evaluated to be added to the lists at 2 additional hospitals.

Tonya’s life goals are to return to her classroom and her teaching, continue growing in her relationship with the Lord, and become a loving grandmother to her future grandchildren!