I recently did a Streamyard Broadcast with Gwendolyn Westlund on World Kidney Day. She is a Cancer Survivor, a Blood Recipient, a Heart Transplant Patient, a Recycled Life Warrior, a Kidney Transplant Candidate and a Speaker & Advocate! Link to the Broadcast.
Gwen’s Journey Begins with Hodgkin’s
Gwen ‘s journey began back in 2002 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 21. She was successfully treated with radiation therapy, sending her cancer into remission a year after her diagnosis.
Issues With Her Heart
This was just the start of a long list of health issues for Gwen. Five years after the radiation for cancer, she learned that same radiation had scarred her heart.
“After a two-week hospital stay with double lung pneumonia, I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure due to mitral valve prolapse,”Gwen said, “I managed to keep my heart problems in check over the next five years by maintaining a healthy diet and taking my prescribed medications.”
By May of 2013, Gwen went into end-stage heart failure. She felt very ill and was taken to the Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where she had numerous surgeries, blood transfusions, eventually receiving both a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and a temporary external right ventricular assist device (RVAD). After being sedated for 8 days she was told she would need a new heart and had been placed on the heart transplant waiting list.
Gwen’s Heart Transplant
After a two month hospital stay and three months waiting at home, she received the Heart Call in October of 2013 that a donor heart had been found. The heart transplant surgery was successfully done at the Advocate-Aurora Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois.
Gwen’s Kidneys Failed
Gwen’s health issues did not end there. During that 3 months stay in 2019, her body endured a lot of trauma and the immunosuppressive medications she took caused her kidneys to fail in March of 2019. After 3 rounds of pneumonia that year & while undergoing treatment, she suffered an Acute Kidney Injury. Without warning she was placed on dialysis. She has currently been on dialysis for 3 years.
Gwen Is Seeking a Live Kidney Donor
She is currently listed for a kidney transplant at Advocate Christ Medical Center’s (Oak Lawn, IL) kidney transplant office at 708-684-7100, tell them you’d like to schedule an appointment for a donor talk for Gwendolyn Westlund. Her post that you can share is referred to in the comments. She is actively looking for a living donor.
In Gwen’s own words, “I’m particularly looking forward to travel. My mom and brother and twin nephews live in North Carolina and I can’t visit. There are also tons of places I’d like to go. Nieces and nephews I’d like to make better memories with.”
Gwen’s Advocacy Work
Despite all of her health issues, Gwen still advocates for all of us with the Gift of Hope and Vitalant Blood. She also plans to walk for various organizations including the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois and ACS Relay for Life.
Gwen is an example for all of us concerning her ability to persevere through the most adverse of circumstances. Please share this blog so we can spread Gwen’s story and help to find her a kidney donor!