By Kasia Michalik
When she was 10-years-old, Valen Keefer’s (neé Cover) life took an unexpected turn. She was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD)—life-threatening genetic disease. Nineteen years later, Valen reflects on her life of never losing hope and always being thankful for another day.
Valen comes from a family that has been battling PKD for generations. This disease is one of the most common genetic diseases out there.
“You have a 50 percent chance of passing it on,” Valen said. “In my family it was passed down from each generation, we didn’t skip a generation.”
At the age of 10 she was taken in to see her pediatrician for a routine check up. She ended up leaving with a script for an ultrasound and blood pressure that was 160/140.
“High blood pressure is common with PKD,” she said. “They had an inclination to what was going on. On the ultrasound they saw that my kidneys were polluted with cysts.”
She was told that this would not affect her till her late 40s to early 50s. Valen wasn’t as lucky as some.
“Unfortunately I had a problem with cyst bleeds,” she said. “What would happen is the cysts on my kidneys would rupture. They would bleed, I would be in a lot of pain and have fevers.”
Due to her bleeding cysts Valen was in and out of the hospital. During middle school and high school, she was unable to take part in certain activities and she missed the first part of her senior year. Right after starting college she became severely ill and had to stop her education.
“I went into the hospital and was there almost 11 months. There was one complication after another,” she said.
Her health issues started earlier on in life. Before she was diagnosed with PKD—between the age of five and 13—she had a seizure disorder, at 10 PKD was diagnosed, and in eighth grade she went through spinal surgery for scoliosis. She had a bilateral nephrectomy at the age of 18 where she spent eight months on dialysis. Valen has gone through pancreatitis, 70-plus blood transfusions and severe hypertension. She has 40-inches worth of scars on her body. Her doctors didn’t expect her to make it. Her family, at one point, was told to say goodbye to Valen because she wasn’t expected to make it through her next emergency surgery.