Blink of an Eye

I was blinking through tears as I read the words in an email from Brenda Cogley that said, “I wanted to email you because he loved you so much. Bob passed away this morning.” I was sitting in the airport with Noah about to board our plane from Honolulu to Sacramento. Tears streamed down my face as I handed my phone to Noah to read the news. I couldn’t talk. I was in disbelief.

Bob Cogley was my dialysis nurse at Johns Hopkins. He was a vital part of my medical team. I spent some of my darkest days with him. He played such an integral role in keeping me alive. All of these memories flooded my mind and consumed my thoughts.

I was recently asked by the magazine, Renal Business Today, to write an article for their November issue on what is was like being on dialysis. With all of these emotions welling up inside me from this news, I needed an outlet to release them. As we boarded the plane, I knew what I needed to do. I needed to write. I opened up my laptop and the words flowed right out of me, like Bob was guiding my hands on the keyboard. I relived my dialysis days and created an article titled, “A Dialysis Legacy.” This is a tribute to Bob, which I will share with you when it is published in November.

In a blink of an eye our world can change. We can receive the best news ever and all of a sudden be floating high. We can receive news that we have lost a dear friend and become devastated. We can be healthy and drop to our knees in pain, like when my cysts would bleed. We can be deathly sick and have our health restored, when one receives the gift of life.

When moments like this happen, everything becomes clearer. Puts into perspective how precious every second is. Makes one realize that their day isn’t that bad and it could be worse. That we should be grateful for all we have. Make the best of every healthy day. Why does it take difficult moments to put life into perspective?

Bob’s memorial took place on September 14th. With living cross-country from the service, I was unable to attend. It was very hard for me to not be there. I shared the article I wrote with Bob’s wife, Brenda. She and her daughter loved it so much that they asked if they could read it at his memorial service. I was so touched and grateful by this as I felt I was a small part of the celebration of Bob’s life. I hope he was smiling down from heaven. In lieu of flowers, Brenda decided to have those interested to donate to the PKD Foundation. She said, “Bob would have wanted to help find a cure for the disease that you have. He was so proud of the volunteer work that you do.” I am in awe and so grateful.

Hard to swallow that such a special man, who is part of the reason why I am still alive today, is no longer with us. This news brought out so many emotions for me. I know it is easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day routine and the stress that surrounds us. My goal and what I strive to do is to embrace every day; slow down and remember to enjoy and live in the moment; and tell our loved ones how much they mean to me. Why? Because everything can change in the blink of an eye.

Here’s the link to Bob’s obituary:

If you are inspired by Bob’s story, please make a donation in his honor to the PKD Foundation


  1. Sue Swift

    Valen, so sorry for your loss. I can only imagine how hard this has to be for you, but you can rest assured he is smiling down on you with love. Take care. Sue

    • Valen Keefer

      Thank you so very much Sue! Bob was such a wonderful man who played a key role in keeping me alive. I will continue to live my life to make him and everyone else proud. xo

  2. Wendy Crowder

    Valen, I am so sorry to hear this! My prayers go out to Bob’s family. I also had Bob as my dialysis nurse. He helped me through many lonley an what seemed never ending days at dialysis. We spoke of you because I had read your book, he always had fond memories of you an he told me how you were a fighter an how strong an for me not to give up. Then when you came to see me after transplant surgery, I took one look at you an knew what he meant. I have great memories of Bob. He truly loved what he did, even if for a brief moment he thought of not continuing. I’m glad he did because I had the chance to meet a loving, caring an tender person. He will be missed greatly.
    ~ Heaven gained a great Angel

    • Valen Keefer

      Dear Wendy,
      Thank you so much for this heartfelt message. I am so thankful that he continued his career in dialysis and you were able to be in such good hands. Amazing that we shared the same doctors. Walking into your hospital room and seeing you after you received your transplant is a day I will always treasure. I hope you are feeling great and your kidney is working fabulously! At your next appointment at Johns Hopkins, please tell everyone hi and give them a big hug. Your thoughtful words made me smile. Thank you! Miss you! xo

  3. Jody Balaun

    Valen….what a beautiful way to introduce us to your friend Bob. Without your blog, many of us wouldn’t have the honor of learning about him. Thank you for sharing….and, I love the title ‘Blink of an Eye’. So true for everyone….I love a quote from a movie about life with ‘the bitter & the sweet’…we can’t appreciate the sweet without the bitter. And, for many of us our days are filled with both. You’re one of the bravest people I know…again, thank you for writing about your journey. Can’t wait for your next blog…in the meantime, I have a lovely bracelet I’m wearing to keep you near. Hugs…Jody

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Sweet Jody,
      Thank you so much! I completely agree. After enduring everything I have, a day waking up in my own bed and not in the hospital is the greatest day. As you know, going through challenges really helps to put things in persepctive and you learn quickly not to sweat the small stuff. It is nice to meet people like you who get it, not everybody does. My next blog is about my trip to Denver! Yeah!!! 🙂 Aww, that makes my heart happy thinking of you wearing the bracelet. Wishing you all the best tomorrow for your next procedure! xo


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