Cranberry kidney recipient's winning essay lands her in Rose Bowl Parade
In the 11 years since she received a kidney transplant, Nikki McKenna graduated from college and got married.
"This takes a special type of character and determination to continue to live your life. She has gone to school, finished school and gotten married, pretty much what most people her age have done," said Ron Shapiro, the surgeon at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh who performed McKenna's transplant surgery in 1998.
McKenna, 30, has been selected as a winner of an essay contest sponsored by Astellas Pharma Inc., the Japanese manufacturer of an anti-rejection drug. As winner, she will ride in the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's Day.
There were 185 submissions to the contest. This year's contest was not the first time McKenna, who lives in Cranberry, submitted an essay.
"In the past, I have put through everything that people go through when they get sick. This time, I wrote more about the positive things," McKenna said.
Looking back over half her life, McKenna's essay credits family and friends, her high school teachers, doctors and nurses, even people she does not know.
"Keeping a positive attitude when you have to take numerous medications, deal with physical and mental issues, and go to dialysis is pretty tough. I didn't think that this was possible. However, I was wrong. " she wrote.
McKenna's medical condition has dominated more than half of her life since, at the age of 14, one of her legs became swollen.
"I didn't think much of it at first. Then another leg became swollen, and it did not stop. That's when I was diagnosed with kidney disease," McKenna said.
Two years later, at the age of 16 and after being on a waiting list, both of McKenna's kidneys failed, meaning that dialysis would no longer work.
That's when McKenna's father, Bernie Redlinger, stepped in.
"He donated to me when I was diagnosed with complete kidney failure. He was the only person who had the same blood type," she said.
Redlinger did not think long about his decision to help his daughter.
"This was all really hard for me my wife, Nikki and her sister. But if the transplant lasted just a week, it still would have been worth it," said Redlinger, a dispatcher for US Airways who lives in Mt. Washington.
A decade after her transplant, McKenna has to pay more attention than most people to minor ailments. Five years ago, strep throat landed her in the hospital.
"What I worry about most is getting sick, getting the flu and a common cold. A high fever would put me in the hospital," she said.
Yet health risks have not dampened her enthusiasm for physical activity, which includes walks, basketball, biking, hiking, camping and fishing in locations such as North Park, Moraine State Park, Presque Isle State Park and Conneaut Lake in Crawford County.
Last year, she played volleyball, basketball and tennis at the U.S. Transplant Games in Pittsburgh.
"People sometimes tell me I don't look like I have had a transplant. I'm not always sure what they mean," she said.
Doctors perform about 18,000 kidney transplants in the United States every year, and demand for kidneys outstrips the number of people who donate them after death.
"The big problem is that there are an insufficient number of donors to meet the demand, which makes living donations an important option," Shapiro said.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Economy police release sketch of woman whose embalmed head was found in wooded area
- Gasoline prices keep falling in Western Pa.
- Pirates win bidding for Korean infielder
- Ex-Penguins defenseman Niskanen still miffed by coaches’ firings
- North Korea experiencing severe Internet outages
- Steelers’ Beachum, Williams hurting but could play vs. Bengals
- WPIAL players named to Class AAA, A all-state teams
- Rossi: Steelers rising fast in mediocre AFC
- North Side drug den can be demolished, judge says
- Marcellus driller Vantage Energy to pay nearly $1M for Greene County well problems
- Penguins’ Sutter, Downie, Greiss being tested for mumps, out tonight