Meet Cesante Ward, a young man who was born with nonfunctioning kidneys. After being on dialysis from birth, he underwent his first kidney transplant at age 6. Unfortunately, one of his post-transplant medications damaged the new kidney and he soon returned to dialysis. His condition robbed him of at least one full year of elementary school. His “first” family was very supportive, particularly his mother. As the youngest of four children, Cesante also enjoyed caregiving from all his siblings.
After his next transplant in 2006, Cesante enjoyed typical high school and college experiences. During the summers, he attended the NKFM Kids Camp and the University of Michigan Transplant Camp. When he was older, he became a leader at both of these camps, connecting with younger children also living with kidney disease. The camps’ staffs and campers became his “second family”, says Cesante. “After I went through camp leadership training, I enjoyed helping kids feel empowered to show their scars to one another and relate to one another. I wanted them to feel empowered even after they left camp.” He adds that his camp experiences partially made up for the all the field trips he missed in elementary school.
In 2018, he graduated from Oakland University with a degree in Human Resources Development. Not long after graduation, Cesante’s transplanted kidney stopped working. He is back on dialysis three times a week and seeking a kidney donor. Cesante’s “third” family, his friends, have made the difficulties of life with kidney disease more bearable. “I have a best friend who I have known since Kindergarten — she has been with me through all the good times and all the bad times.”
Cesante recently started working in Patient Services at the NKFM. He currently coordinates the medical I.D. tag program and assists with Kidney PATH, a program that helps people with kidney disease learn to manage their overall health and improve their quality of life. His responsibilities, including assisting people with kidney disease, will increase as he learns more about the NKFM. Cesante will certainly understand kidney patients, regardless of where they are in their journeys. “I tell my story to encourage others. Don’t give up because you don’t know what’s going to happen. I keep trying new things and finding new passions because you don’t know where you will be in 3 months. Find those new passions — you need something to keep you going.”
NKFM staff are on their way to becoming Cesante’s “fourth” family.