Long road to good health
DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Helen Arnold Correll, Tamaqua, is the mother of Lori Reinert. She says Lori has had medical issues since she was two years old, but nobody realized that Lori had only one functioning kidney.
Is it possible to go through life with only one kidney but never know it?
The answer is yes.
And in the case of Lori Correll Reinert, the long wait for good health might finally be over.
The 1980 Tamaqua Area High School graduate is expected to undergo a kidney transplant on Wednesday at Lehigh Valley Transplant Center.
For Reinert, 48, the surgery will correct problems that began when she was two years old.
"They didn't expect her to live," says her mother, Helen Arnold Correll, Tamaqua. "We put her in Ashland Hospital at the time. She spent two weeks there."
Lori was diagnosed by Dr. Holland of Mahanoy City with pernicious anemia and a kidney infection.
She appeared to recover. But what nobody knew was that the infection had permanently affected one of her kidneys. With time, the kidney became useless - but nobody realized it.
"Back then there was no follow-up care," says Lori. "And there was no dialysis back then either."
In fact, nobody even knew there was a problem.
Over her lifetime, Lori's lone kidney worsened, says her husband William.
"Her remaining kidney has deteriorated over time due to lifelong medical issues with high blood pressure. She has been able to live with renal failure for the past twenty years until a year ago," says William.
In fact, Helen says the family was surprised to learn years later that Lori had a problem with her kidneys.
"She found out when she was pregnant that she had only one kidney," says Helen.
At the time, Lori became underwent surgery for dialysis access and became a candidate for a kidney transplant.
The preliminary surgery was itself a significant procedure as doctors operated on Lori's arm in order to fuse a vein to an artery. That step required considerable healing time, but was necessary for dialysis treatment.
Lori's road to good health has hit some big potholes. She's experienced highs and lows that few others could imagine. For instance, her first kidney donor had to cancel out.
"It wasn't that she backed out. She found out she was borderline diabetic," says Lori, "and was unable to donate. We're still very good friends."
So Lori remained on the transplant list at both the Lehigh Valley Transplant Center and University of Pennsylvania Transplant Institute.
She now has a new donor, her friend Christina, a resident of Moore Township and native of Canada.
The role of needing help was something altogether new to Lori, who normally is in a position of offering help to others.
"Through all of this, Lori has continued to work helping domestic violence victims as a court advocate for Turning Point of Lehigh Valley," says William.
She also works on weekends for Valley Youth House, where she devotes her attention to homeless children. She also volunteers at her children's school. In addition, both Lori and William serve as foster parents for abandoned and neglected animals.
"She is a wonderful woman, a giving person, great wife, and loving mother to our two sons, Stephen and David," says William.
Stephen attends college, pursing a degree in engineering and David is a junior at Liberty High School with hopes of attending college to study physics.
But Lori's health concerns have become difficult for the family, emotionally and financially, especially this year when William was laid off from his job due to the recession and its effects on the construction business.
In the meantime, Lori continues a grueling regimen of medicine - 47 pills a day - including pre-transplant meds.
"Thirty of the medications are research drugs with no cost to us," says William. "They help Lori stay off dialysis for now. However, the remaining 17 pills a day have a high price tag. Transplants are very expensive and the costs of care for the rest of Lori's life can be devastating. Even though insurance covers the bulk of the procedure, there are expenses for hospital visits, clinics, and medications needed for the rest of Lori's life, not covered by insurance."
The family has turned to the National Transplant Assistance Fund, or NTAF, a nonprofit organization that has been assisting the transplant community for over 25 years.
The family has been receiving donations at the NTAP mid-Atlantic Kidney Transplant Fund in honor of Lori Reinert, 150 N. Radnor Chester Rd, Suite F-120, Radnor, Pa., 19087.
A miniature golf tournament in Lori's honor is set for Sat., Oct. 9, 10 a.m. at Putt U Miniature Golf, 5200 Route 309, Center Valley, Pa. More information is available from William at (610) 390-6117.
As of now, doctors say Lori's kidney is functioning at only 12 percent.
Last week she spent three days in the renal unit at Lehigh Valley Hospital due to an imbalance of salt and water in her body. Previously, she was admitted for an imbalance of calcium.
"It's very tricky," she says.
The family is hoping for successful surgery and praying for the best possible outcome. Lori has two sisters, Bonnie Smith, Tamaqua, and Patti Fayash, Mountaintop. Her two brothers, Larry and Steve, have passed away, as well as her father, John.
During her years in Tamaqua, Lori was employed at Pizza Hut on Center Street, and attended Bethany Evangelical Congregational Church.
As for the surgery, Lori says she remains "cautiously excited."
"Things can go wrong. Things can happen. If it doesn't happen, it'll be a far drop down."
Lori says the doctors appear confident and the care she's received been excellent.
"Everybody's been really kind. It's been very heartwarming."For Lori, good health has been a lifetime journey.
At this point, she's hoping the long road to good health will have a happy ending.
She already has an immediate goal in mind following her transplant surgery - she wants to see her classmates from Tamaqua Area High School's Class of 1980.
"I'd like to go to my class reunion at the end of October," she says.
At that time, she'll have much to tell them about her road to good health - including the fact that one can go through life with only one kidney and not know it.
She'll also tell them about the help and support of friends and family and what it has meant to her.
"I'm very grateful."
All of it has changed her life in a positive way, she says.
"It makes you grow as a person."