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Weissport woman: ‘I get to live another day’

For Linda Schoenberger, life is all about her family and a special 50-year friendship.

Until a few months ago, she didn’t know if she had many more days left to enjoy either.

Stricken with kidney disease that began six years ago, Schoenberger waited patiently for a new organ that would give her a healthy start on a new life.

“I just felt very fatigued all the time,” she said, describing her symptoms she had while working at Majestic Fire Apparel in Franklin Township.

“I felt nauseous all the time, too.”

The 68-year-old grandmother of 16 grandchildren and great-grandmother of two couldn’t find the energy to keep working and had to leave her job. Tests revealed that both of her kidneys were working at 35% capacity.

She was referred to a specialist who monitored her kidney function and prescribed a strict diet that excluded all dairy products.

“My kidneys continued to get worse,” said Schoenberger, a 34-year resident of Weissport. “I was put on dialysis for three days a week for about four hours a day at a treatment center in Lehighton. I had to do this every week for five years.”

The dialysis treatments filter a patient’s blood and rids it of toxins and excess fluids.

Schoenberger was added to a kidney donor waiting list, which can take years before an eligible recipient receives an organ that matches her blood type and other specific body chemical requirements.

As she continued her treatments, she received updates on the donor list.

“When I was 10th on the list, I was told to be prepared,” she said.

She moved to sixth on the list and then rose to second, but all along, she kept her emotions in check.

“I thought that if somebody should need one before me then good for that person.”

On Sept. 27, a match was found and Schoenberger was told to come to Lehigh Valley Hospital where she waited for nine hours until surgery was performed at 6 p.m. Five hours later, she had a new kidney.

Some people like to know about the donor, but that never entered into her mind.

“If it came from someone who was deceased, then I’m especially grateful. I get to live another day,” Schoenberger said.

After five days in the hospital and during eight weeks at home recuperating, followup checks have proved her body has accepted the new kidney.

She has no diet restrictions now, and after six years without eating dairy products, she treated herself to a slice of pizza.

“Oh my God, it was fantastic,” she said, with a laugh. “Then I had a cheese sandwich, too.”

Due to the risks of the coronavirus, Schoenberger has been put on a strict quarantine from the outside world. She is not allowed to drive, go shopping or see any of her grandchildren.

“We do FaceTime together,” she said. “ And my daughter will drive by and her kids will wave to me from the car before they go to day care.”

She is not permitted to see Martha from Lehighton, her best friend since she was 17 years old, so they talk on the phone. “This will be the first time in 50 years that we won’t bake Christmas cookies together.”

There will be no Thanksgiving get-together with her extended family, but she intends to enjoy the day with her husband, Rusty, her grandson, Mark along with her granddaughter, Katelyn Solt and Adilyn Shanton, Katelyn’s 2-year-old child, who are staying with her.

“Of course, the holidays won’t be the same, but at least I will be here,” Schoenberger said.

She has kept a positive attitude through the entire ordeal, an outlook she said she got from her mother, who had died from colon cancer, but kept her illness a secret from the family until she went into the hospital.

“We never knew she was sick. She was OK with it because she had lived a good life.”

With her mother’s optimism inside her, Schoenberger takes every day as a special gift.

“I have a new lease on life,” she said. “I feel great and for what I will miss during these holidays, there’s always next year.”

For now, and until the world finds a way to return Linda Schoenberger to all of her grandchildren, waiting until next year is good enough, and baking Christmas cookies with her best friend next December will still keep their tradition alive.

Linda Schoenberger of Weissport is thankful for her family and a chance to live, thanks to a kidney transplant. From left are her grandson Mark Solt, Linda and her husband, Rusty, and Katelyn Solt and Adilyn Shanton, 2. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO