RJ's Story

1 year and 5 months...

That time frame may not seem like a long time, but to someone on dialysis and on the waiting list for a kidney, it’s like an eternity.

My name is Ryan Jude Gutierrez, but to my friends and family, I’m known simply as RJ. I am 36 years old, married to the love of my life for 9 years and have 2 of the most beautiful and loving children aged 4 and 8. 

I am from a small town in NJ and have a small, close knit network. I am normally quiet, even if we have known each other for some time. That is not to say that I am not a loving, caring, friendly and dependable person. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I believe the old adage of “Do unto others...”

My dialysis is the result of a hereditary defect that seems to stem from my mother’s side of the family. For 34 years of my life, I’ve lived with this looming over me like a dark cloud waiting for the right moment to create a perfect storm. I was soon diagnosed with Iga nephropathy or Berger’s disease. It’s a disease that affects the kidney over time, eventually hindering its functionality. 

The summer of 2016 was the hardest time of my life so far because it was at that time I started feeling the effects of kidney disease. It was also at this time in which I was working full time while attending nursing school..the perfect storm. Before I knew it, I had a catheter inserted in my abdomen and I was sitting in a dialysis unit awaiting instructions. Sitting in that chair, going through the routines, it all seems like a blur, like a bad dream. So many thoughts ran through my head all at once like a flash flood that I couldn’t even gather my bearings. 

I began my nightly routine, month after month, every night for 9 hours. And just as I was starting to get used to this life, the year 2017 hit me like a ton of bricks. I awoke one morning and tried to focus my eyes, just like every morning before, however this day was different. As I rubbed my eyes to try to refocus them, I noticed that I could not. I decided to make a doctor appointment as a precaution. That appointment changed my life again. Upon the end of the appointment I found myself scheduled for emergency surgery for dual retinal detachments. I did not know how to handle everything that I was going through. First I find out my kidneys were failing, now I might lose my sight.

Fast forward to 2018...I’m still fighting on after countless nights of dialysis, numerous trips to the clinic for blood draws and tests, and 4 eye surgeries. I continue to fight for my family because they are the most important people in my life and they give me the strength to go on each night. As it becomes harder and harder each day to go on, I keep on track because I have the love and support from them. 

Not only is my life now physically demanding, as the dialysis is taking a toll, but mentally and emotionally it has been tasking. Not many know the psychological aspect of kidney disease and how it can reshape your thoughts. The trick is to live your life to the fullest, be kind, love much and most importantly....have faith.

I didn’t mean to make anybody feel any sort of way, I merely wanted to just tell my story, through my eyes.