Milford woman with rare genetic disease seeks lifesaving kidney transplant
A Milford woman with a rare genetic disease is sharing her story in hopes it could lead to a lifesaving kidney transplant - not just for her, but any of the 100,000 people waiting for a kidney in the U.S.
At just 39 years old, Kate Nowicki needs a kidney transplant - calling the news a "gut punch."
"I fear for myself... I fear for my friends... I fear for my family," she says. "I am a caregiver to my mother and I have a fiancé."
Nowicki also has polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disorder she watched her father die from.
"It causes cysts to grow on healthy kidney tissue, so over time those cysts get larger, they multiply and they shut down various parts of the functioning kidney," she says. "My belly is quite large, you'll notice and this is because the size of my kidneys are taking over pretty much the entirety of my abdominal cavity."
Nowicki went on the transplant list in July but there are thousands of people ahead of her.
"The need far outweighs the availability. I think 14 people a day end up passing away - sorry - because they don't get an organ in time," she says.
"The average wait list time for a kidney transplant - the traditional pathway with a deceased donor - is somewhere between five to 10 years of waiting," says Dr. Danielle Haakinson, the director of the Living Donor Kidney Program at Yale New Haven Health.
Staff there are working with Nowicki and hundreds of others to find people willing to donate a kidney.
"Someone really only needs one functioning kidney," says Haakinson.
"I have trust in the process, I have faith in the process," says Nowicki.
Nowicki has seen firsthand what a living donation can do. Her father got 18 more years thanks to a kidney from her aunt.
"He was 73 - my father, when he passed," she says.
Nowicki's brother also has polycystic kidney disease, though not as advanced as hers yet and will need a transplant one day. She says that's one reason she recently went public with her plight on social media.
"You don't necessarily want everybody to know you are sick or perhaps be looked at differently," she says.
Nowicki hopes by opening up she can make a difference - not just for herself, but anyone in her position.
"Someone could be solely responsible for saving a life and I think that's pretty wonderful," she says.