Shining Star

You never know what the new day will bring. We can plan ahead our intentions for the next day, but unexpected or unwanted obstacles may present themselves. This happened to me last week. I went to bed Sunday evening with a game plan of what I wanted to accomplish the following day. When I opened my eyes Monday morning, I knew the prognosis for my day was not going to be good. I was immediately nauseous and grabbed the bathroom trashcan. I proceeded to dry-heave for more than two hours straight. I was so miserable and my stomach was on fire with pain. I hate vomiting, but I just wished that I would in hopes that I would feel better. I finally threw up and knew what I had to do next.

It was 11 Hydrating & Medsa.m. and I was late on taking my morning kidney transplant anti-rejection meds. I tried to sip water and take a bite of a cracker but my body was not interested. When you are a transplant recipient, hydration and taking your medicine is key to survival. I knew I had to go to the emergency room so they could re-hydrate me and get my nausea under control so I could take my medicine. As my husband, Noah, headed home from work to pick me up, I did the normal drill of packing my hospital bag. I grabbed my medicine, medical history list, purse, ID cards, phone, phone charger, comfy clothes, a couple pairs of underwear and socks, as I knew this would be at least an overnight stay.

Upon arrival at the emergency room I sat in a chair at the registration desk and told the woman that I was a kidney transplant recipient and how awful I felt. She immediately said, “Don’t touch anything.” The registration clerk called back to the ER room and told them to have a nurse come out to get me, as she did not want me sitting in the waiting room. She then gave me her personal hand sanitizer to use and when she handed back my driver’s license, she did not slide it across the desk as I’m used to, but rather handed it to me. She did not allow me to use the public pen. The clerk was going to give me hers, but was pleased when she saw I had my own. Within two minutes of sitting in the registration chair I was whisked back to the ER. I was so impressed and thankful for the registration woman’s kindness and consideration. By her actions and mannerisms I felt like it was my mom dressed to look like someone else registering me.

I spent a few days in the hospital where they kept me hydrated, controlled my nausea so that I could take my medicine and kept a close eye on my laboratory results. My fever spiked to 101.2 and they believed I had a stomach virus. I was reminded on several occasions how important it is as a patient to pay attention to every little detail while hospitalized. When medicine is brought to you, or administered through your IV, make sure to ask what it is and why you are being given it. Make sure it follows your normal regimen. If it does not, make sure you are comfortable with what the doctors and nurses are doing. If you are not, stop them and talk to the nurse about it or call your doctor. I called my nephrologist on my cell phone to make sure he approved of the course of action for my hospital stay and had him on speakerphone to discuss my care with my nurse.

Question for DrOne of the interesting experiences I had was when the phlebotomist came into my room to draw blood for several tests and a 12-hour prograf draw. Prograf is one of my anti-rejection medicines. In order to get an accurate level of what it is in my blood stream, my blood needs to be drawn 12 hours after I take my last dose. The phlebotomist was 30 minutes late when she walked through the door. I have tiny veins and they roll. I get monthly labs done and know that it takes several tubes in order to get the results for all of my blood work tests. The hospital was checking my normal standing order labs and some additional tests. The phlebotomist was only able to get a minuscule amount of blood, hardly anything. She said, “I might be able to get your CBC and maybe your prograf level.” She then proceeded to say, “Did you come in through the ER? If so, I can use that blood for the rest of the tests.” I said, “WHAT? I came in through the ER two days ago. You can’t use old blood. We need to know what my kidney levels and others tests are as of today.” When she left I immediately called my nurse to inform her of this. I could not get over the incompetence of this incidence. Please speak up. We have the right to. It is our body.

Shining Star 2

A day after I came home from the hospital, I received a follow-up call from the hospital to see how I was and to discuss my care. During the conversation, I explained what happened with the phlebotomist. I also acknowledged the exceptional care I was given by the registration woman. The woman on the phone was surprised and said that they do not get many compliments for that department. I expressed how much it meant to me as a transplant patient to be treated with such respect and concern. The woman on the phone said, “Would you like to give her a ‘Shining Star’ recognition?” I said, “Absolutely.” This is a recognition program for employees to know that they are doing a wonderful job and that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. The woman on the phone said she would put my name on the certificate. I did not catch the name of the woman that checked me in at the hospital. I may never cross paths with her again, but she was the ‘shining star’ of my hospital stay. Although our days may not unfold as planned, I believe there is a ‘shining star’ or glimmer of hope in each day.

What was your ‘shining star’ or glimmer of hope today?


  1. Marsha Byers Etnier

    Valen Keefer my first ‘shining star’ of the day was a phone call from our son! My last ‘shining star’ so far today was reading your post! You always say something that just makes me smile with every cell of my being. 🙂 and thank you so much for the reminder that it is okay to be our own best advocate!! Blessings to you and yours……xoxoxo <3

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Marsha,

      Thank you so much for sharing your ‘shining stars.’ I’m honored to be one of them. Smiling and laughter is so important, as well as being our own advocate. Nobody knows our bodies better than ourselves. Your cheerful spirit always makes me smile. Thank you for brightening my day. Hugs!

  2. Julia Adams

    Love this…I think in every situation, no matter how difficult, there are people and circumstances that will always surprise and amaze you if you are looking for them! I’m so glad to hear you are feeling better and are home now! My “shining star” today was the kind, bubbly woman who called me from the PKD specialty clinic at UCLA today to get all the new patient info. for my daughter. I was feeling a bit stressed about everything and she had me smiling with her comments about the coincidences in our lives…my daughter’s bday being the same as her father’s, her father and my husband sharing the same name, her father wanting to donate a kidney like my husband just did and finding out he couldn’t because he only has one! Anyway, it was a pleasure to speak with her and I feel more relaxed now about the appointment. I’m grateful for her attitude! I’m also grateful for you and your indomitable spirit…”Shining Star” Valen!! XO

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Julia,

      It is wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for sharing your beautiful ‘shining star’ story. I am so happy the UCLA woman helped to ease your stress and make you more relaxed. Our journey can be overwhelming and it is good to keep our eyes open and appreciate the small things along the way. I hope you and your family are healthy and doing well. Thank you for your kind words. I am very grateful for you and your friendship! xo

  3. Glenn

    You are a shining star!

    It must be hard and scary when sick to take care of a cherished kidney that means so much. You did a great job and are inspiring to me and others I am sure. As I enter the medical world with my own PKD problems, it helps to read experiences from others, dealing with hospitals, nurses, doctors and all that goes with it. Hope you are all better now!

    Thanks for sharing!
    I started sharing my journey on my new blog here:

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Glenn,

      Thank you so very much for your kind words of support. I am happy to hear that you enjoy my blog. It is extremely important to take good care of our health in order to keep our kidney protected. I am feeling better now and appreciate your message. I commend you for using your voice and sharing your journey. It is important for all of us to connect and learn from each other as we battle PKD and other health hurdles that may come our way. Take good care. I wish you all the best.

  4. Karen Fitzgerald

    Dear Valen,

    I am happy that you are ok! As I was reading about your experience, the words “bright sunshine” appeared on the tv screen to describe today’s weather forecast. YOU are part of my bright sunshine, as are others who give me hope that I will be back to my physical wellness soon. I love that there are three little turtles in the picture you show- turtles remind us to stay grounded and calm, “managing our health to go the distance”. (See Keep shining, and as always, thank you for your encouragement.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Karen,

      Thank you for this beautiful message of encouragement and support. You have brightened my day! For many years, whenever my mom and I see something with a turtle on it, we say, “Turtle, turtle, turtle.” She recently got these for me. They have encouraging words on them and I love to surround myself with inspiring quotes and thoughts. I did not know that turtles meant that. Thank you for sharing! I hope you are feeling well and your inner spirit is remaining strong. Big hugs!


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