Hello and thanks for visiting our website. My name is John M Turek, and I am one of about 500 thousand people in the world who have Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).
It was February 28, 2011 and I had just finished the 2nd hour of my 270th dialysis treatment. The sessions were from 6:30 am to 11:00 am MDT every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
I am also one of 75,000 people who were on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. Within that realm are about 30,000 of us who do not have viable prospects for a living donor, so we wait for deceased donor kidneys.
By the time one of us gets that "magic phone call", we will have been going through this weekly routine for about 3 ½ years, 550 treatments, and 2,500 hours.
When I started dialysis on May 4th, 2009, I kind of knew what to expect. You see, my disease is hereditary. When I was a little boy, my grandmother, Enola (Aubert) Turek was on hemodialysis for many years and my father, Charles Turek was on peritoneal dialysis for several years as well. Hence, the name,The Turek Aubert Memorial Scholarship Fund.
I learned my fate sometime around my 30th birthday in October of 1998. I was aware of my family history, but I was also in my late 20's and like most young people, I thought I was invincible. I also was not interested in seeing a doctor, because I didn’t want them to find something wrong with me and spoil all of my “fun”. Little did I know at the time, my blood pressure was averaging about 210/120 over the last 10 years.
Anyway, I had recently moved to Atlanta from northwest Florida. I had spent the last decade as the typical beach bum, bachelor, and bartender and I was ready to leave all that in my wake and spend the future making my fortune in the big city. I was using my mother and stepfather's home as a starting point (freeloading) as I prepared to conquer Atlanta on my way to vanquishing the world and the entire solar system.
One night I remember I "let" them take me out for dinner. We had a nice time and retired fairly early. I woke up the next morning and proceeded to expel blood for about 2 straight days. Yikes!!! This was my first wake up call. Unfortunately my foolish self hit the snooze button … for 10 more years.
The following day I went to an urologist who told me what I expected: I had Polycystic Kidney Disease. For about a week I moped around in my pajamas and felt sorry for myself. After a while I returned to work and everything soon returned to “normal”. During the next decade, my old habits didn’t change much. The only thing that really changed was my hair got grayer and my belly got fatter.
After another decade of struggling from job to job and town to town, I eventually landed in Denver. My plans for world domination weren’t going quite as I figured, and my 40th birthday was right around the corner. I planned to spend the entire 2 weeks at my brother’s house and have a quiet birthday weekend celebration with him, his family, and our mother.
I literally woke up on my 40th birthday (October 7, 2008) with a bruise the size of a football on my lower abdomen, accompanied by a sharp, piercing and almost unbearable pain in my side. I spent that day at a doctor’s office and he explained that based on the symptoms and my blood test results, I had reached End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). I went from “downhill at 40” to facing a mountain of adversity overnight.
After my vacation I went home and made an appointment with a nephrology group named “Denver Nephrology". These great folks have really helped with my treatments and aided me to keep some semblance of a normal life during this process.
I am one of the lucky ones.In January 2013 I received my transplant from a donor I will never meet. Every day people die waiting for a life saving transplant. Those of us who wait are not only suffering from many forms of pain and discomfort, but I think in my case, my biggest enemy was boredom. I spent 20 hours per week at the dialysis center just basically sitting there. Imagine if you had a 4 hour flight, 3 times per week, while giving plasma the whole time … for about 5 years.
For the first 3 or 4 months of treatments I spent time thinking about ways to occupy my time. One day I decided to start looking into the cost of online classes, and perhaps I could achieve a degree while going through this process. I started shopping around for schools and immediately realized I didn’t have the money for this endeavor.
The next day I kind of blew off that idea and moved on to the next project. I had set aside $840 that I had earned as a guinea pig for a health study. Since I have worked full time from the outset, I decided to use the $840 to donate it to some type of charity. And then it hit me! I could use that money to start a scholarship fund for people in the same situation. How cool would that be?
So that is what I was going to do. I was going to start a non-profit organization. It should be very easy to give your money away to charity right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Currently I work as the Bar Manager for a restaurant in the Tech Center area of Denver. Three nights per week I go back to my roots and tend bar. One day I was chatting about this charity idea to Tom Huzjak, one of my “regulars” who had become my friend.
Tom directed me to some forms online to “get me started”. That got me started alright. About 20 pages worth of government forms that I needed to fill out. Almost the second I saw it I thought, “no way”. But this "whim" seemed more important to me than the rest.
I called my mom the next day and over the phone we worked through these question and answer forms. A few days passed and Tom stopped by to say “hi”. I happened to have a copy of the forms and showed them to him. He casually asked if he could borrow them to see if he could help.
At that moment I think Tom kind of got the concept. I believe that once he started helping out with those forms, he saw what I was trying to do because he then took over all the legal stuff. Fortunately he agreed to join the Board and represent our cause. What a true blessing!
I also invited my mother, Patty Krafft, and my sister, Angela Turek into the fray and low and behold, we had a 4 person “Board of Directors”. Our first official meeting took place July 28th, 2010 at Tom’s office. Everything was going smoothly and then Tom had some health issues of his own, so I put the whole thing on hold for a while until he could get better. Believe me, I was thinking I had created some kind of curse and was having a lot of doubts and second thoughts.
A lot of time went by, and we missed several government deadlines as well. Fortunately, Tom slowly got his strength back and went right back to work for our Foundation. He contacted the government, got the proper extensions and righted the ship.
We added 3 more Board members (Bill, Ken, and Steve) to round out the formula and here we are today. Seven people, all with different backgrounds and reasons to participate and dedicated to a cause that we believe in and can help grow.
I can only speak for myself, but I am not lying when I say that End Stage Renal Disease is the best thing that happened to me. If it wouldn’t have showed up at my 40th birthday celebration to give me a “gift”, I would probably not be alive today!
They say that when the blind lose their sight or the deaf lose the ability to hear, the rest of their senses start to work overtime. I feel this is happening to me . . . only it’s my kidneys that stopped, which allowed my heart to step up and work extra hard.
Your donation will help those who are coping with the setback of dialysis while waiting for a transplant. The recipients will benefit greatly from this service, but I think in the end it will be you and I that benefit the most.
Well, that’s my story. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. If this seems like a “wagon you’d like to hitch to”, please don’t hesitate to share your support. Also, if you or someone you know might be a potential benefactor I would love to hear from you. My email is:
Keep an eye on this site in the future. This spot will be reserved to keep all of you informed of our unified progress. Also, keep an eye out for our upcoming fundraisers and fun events.
Thanks again for your support!