Newsoms kidney patient to advocate for supportPublished 12:23pm Saturday, March 2, 2013
BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
NEWSOMS—Deanna Hunt, a dialysis patient from Newsoms, is going to Washington, D.C., to let Congress know how kidney disease can affect one’s life.
The 32-year-old knows firsthand.
On Thursday, Hunt will ask Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both D-Va., to support a bill that would provide lifetime coverage of anti-rejection medicines for kidney transplant patients.
“I’m excited because it will give me a chance to bring it to people’s attention,” Hunt said.
She wants to impress that kidney disease is a real threat.
Medicare pays for dialysis and covers the $10,000 annual cost of needed medications for three years, said Tamara Ruggiero, vice president of communications and marketing for the American Kidney Fund.
Without them, a patient’s body will reject the new organ and the patient ends up back on dialysis.
A graduate of Southampton High School who studied criminal justice at Chowan University, Hunt has been on the waiting list for a new kidney since March 2009.
Working as a corrections officer for Deerfield Correction Center in Capron in June 2008, she experienced an intense headache and coldness. Hunt couldn’t even open her eyes.
Her doctor prescribed medication for hypertension and four days later, she learned her kidneys had failed. She broke down crying.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think my kidneys were malfunctioning,” Hunt said.
Surgery to install a catheter was done at Sentara Obici Hospital later that month. By July 4, she began dialysis three times a week, each time for about 3½ hours. The treatments, which use 15-inch needles, are done at Southampton Dialysis Center on Armory Drive in Franklin.
“I got calls in January, and I think I’m on top of the list. I pray so,” she said.
With a new kidney, Hunt would still have the lifetime issue of paying for the anti-rejection medication. On disability, that’s why Hunt’s invested in passage of the bill.
“We need assistance like anybody else,” said Hunt. “If I can help just one person — not just myself — I can have peace of mind.”
She’s also concerned whether returning to work full time would be possible.
“I can barely make ends meet,” said Hunt, who lives with her mother and stepfather, Diane and Caleb Shearin. Her mother has high blood pressure and her father, Ernest Hunt of Franklin, is diabetic. Both conditions are believed to be “the chief culprits” of kidney disease, said Ruggiero.
All three of Hunt’s parents have been supportive.
“I’m saddened that I’m a burden, but they assure me I’m not,” she said.