After spending years helping others as a nurse, Donna Kaye Ritter doesn't enjoy asking for help. But the 43-year-old DeKalb County native is in need of a new kidney and is seeking a match from a living donor for an eventual transplant.
Ritter, daughter of Berle and Mamie Billings of Smithville, suffered damage to both kidneys as a result of high blood pressure while she was pregnant with her only child, Corwin, who is now 10 years old. Donna, her husband Paul, and Corwin reside in Murfreesboro.
"The kidney issue mostly started when I was pregnant with Corwin. The blood pressure went out of control and because of it being so high, it damaged the kidneys causing them not to work properly. Shortly after Corwin was born I discovered that I still had about 30% of my kidney function remaining. I dealt with that for a long time. Now I've gone down to 19% and after you get to 19% that's when the doctor's start talking transplant or dialysis and how we're going to deal with it in the future. I decided if I could avoid dialysis at all I would rather go for the transplant. So I have started reaching out to people to see if I could possibly find a match before I get to the point where it's a drastic need. If I can find my own donor, a living donor who is compatible with me, the process of getting a kidney could be much faster than just being on a list and waiting because that could take a long time. Dialysis is also very hard on the body and the family," said Ritter.
Because of her condition, Donna gave up her nursing career before Corwin was born. "Due to the pregnancy, my blood pressure medicine wasn't working that well and I was basically on bed rest from about the time I was six weeks pregnant until he was born. I haven't worked since my pregnancy and have been seeing doctors regularly to monitor my health," Ritter continued.
This is not Ritter’s' first bout with health issues. She was diagnosed with Lupus as a child. "I was 11 years old and in the sixth grade. The high blood pressure was part of the Lupus. I've been on blood pressure medicine since sixth grade because of it. Lupus is a lifelong condition. It’s an auto-immune disease which means my immune system attacks my own body, it cannot tell the difference between my normal cells and a possible virus or infection. For this reason I have been on medication to control it since I was 11" she said.
Ritter encourages everyone to consider becoming an organ donor. "Kidneys are the number 1 needed organ for transplantation. If you feel like you want to help, even if you are not a match for me, you may be a match for someone else. It is a gift of life. It would be so much appreciated."
For more information visit Vanderbilt Transplant at http://www.vanderbilthealth.com/transplant/ or if you would like to contact Ritter send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and be sure to include "transplant" in the subject line.
Donna Ritter is a 1990 graduate of DeKalb County High School. She later earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Nursing and a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology at MTSU. Her husband Paul is a Graphic Designer.