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40 Stories

Meet Erma Bombeck… wife, mother, humorist, author and nationally syndicated columnist who was featured for years on ‘Good Morning America’.

Erma proposed the first Authors Luncheon in 1980, inviting fellow authors and friends from across the country to raise funds and awareness of kidney disease. Erma began her own personal battle with a hereditary disorder, polycystic kidney disease, in the early 1990’s, and unfortunately succumbed to complications of the disease in 1996. To date, through the efforts of the Arizona Women’s Board and the Authors Luncheon, Erma and her husband Bill were responsible for helping to raise more than $4,500,000 of financial support for Arizona kidney patients.

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.”

~ Erma Bombeck

Written by the Arizona Women’s Board in honor of Erma Bombeck

Meet Adriana Trigiani… best selling author, award winning playwright, television writer/producer, filmmaker and Authors Luncheon Emcee.

I knew Erma Bombeck’s work before I knew she had kidneys. She was a brilliant writer, an author of essential bestsellers about life written with humor and wisdom, the champion of mothers, housewives and working people, a Catholic girl with a word or two for the local priest, a smitten wife and beloved mother herself. She would appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and on morning TV and kill. She was hilarious!

I was a kid who collected pins- I had some good ones: Ratify the ERA, a vintage Nixon’s the One, and one with Donna Summer’s face singing Love to Love You Baby. Learning of my passion, my Aunt Jean sent me a note with a pin to add to the collection. It was a green laminated paper kidney with the simple message: I Love You With All My Kidney. I believe in signs.

Long ago, before there was a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, or kidney failure, when I had not heard the word dialysis, applied to family and friends, and knew nothing of the sturdy, humble kidney organ and its function, that simple message resonated deeply with me. Years later, when I saw Erma speak of her own prognosis on television, I remember feeling bereft and helpless. That’s why I’m here- and will be as long as my fellow Lizzies fight the fight- there’s much to do, but together we can have an impact.

“Erma’s work changed the world; if we stay the course, we will too.”

~ Adriana Trigiani

Meet Matt Bombeck… writer, kidney transplant recipient and son of Erma Bombeck.

My mom could mine humor in just about everything that came her way: marriage, mothers, housework, kids—it was a long list. Kidney disease was not on it. “You’ll get people feeling sorry for you—and you should never feel sorry for a humorist,” she said. She also believed that it’s not what happens to you—things happen to everyone—but how you deal with what happens to you that makes the difference. That was how she coped, and the long tradition of the Authors Luncheon embodies that spirit; bring some writers together, a funny emcee, and take on a serious fight with joy and laughter.

“If you can’t make it better, you can always laugh at it.”

~ Erma Bombeck

Meet Cheri Tomlinson… healthcare executive, community leader, Authors Luncheon patron and caregiver to a family friend with Polycystic Kidney Disease.

Jason had been on the transplant wait list for five years when he called Cheri at 8:00 p.m. on August 8th, 2018, and said hurriedly, “I am second on-the-list for a kidney and I will know by midnight. If I am selected, can you be with me at the hospital at 7:00 a.m.?” Cheri and her husband had been there often for Jason over their twenty-year friendship, sharing his struggle with kidney disease. This time was different.

One midnight call can change everything. A single-dad to nine-year old Riley, Jason had a real chance now to see his daughter grow up. He and Riley lived with the Tomlinsons while Cheri cared for him post-surgery, every day celebrating the shared gift of life. Today, Jason and Riley are home and thriving.

“Save a Life – It’s in You.”

~ Erma Bombeck

Meet Katie Grannan… daughter, friend, outdoor enthusiast, and lover of life.

Katie Grannan was an energetic 10-year-old when a sports physical that detected a rare autoimmune disease was destroying her kidneys. By the time she was a senior at Northern Arizona University, she could barely leave her bed—no longer able to keep up her busy school schedule, work and exercise classes.

In July 2014, doctors told her she would need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. Her parents were devastated to learn they weren’t matches for organ donation. Desperate to save her only child, Katie’s mom posted a plea on Facebook. She was surprised to receive several responses in a short time, including one from a former neighbor, Amy Sperry, who tested positive as a match and was ready to help save Katie’s life. Now 34, Katie is her energetic self, socializing with friends, encouraging them to join her cycling, hiking, running and paddle boarding.

“Living with a kidney disease hasn’t been easy. I dealt with constant back pain and extreme fatigue.
Thanks to Amy, Facebook and the transplant team at St. Joseph’s, I am back to living my life!”

~ Katie Grannan

Meet Esther Dominguez… end stage renal disease and dialysis patient at Maricopa Integrated Health System (soon to be Valleywise Health).

Esther always finds the positive in any situation and has a smile on her face. However, behind her smile and positive attitude she was often struggling to make ends meet. Living alone, Esther found herself on repeated occasions having to choose between paying for food or paying for transportation. Calling her renal disease social worker to say she would have to miss a treatment because she could not cover the cost of getting there, Esther knew she was putting her life at risk. Without dialysis, fluid overload and toxin buildup for dialysis patients is deadly. Fortunately, funds from the Arizona Women’s Board grant were available to pay for Esther’s transportation, ensuring she could receive the lifesaving treatment.

“I am grateful to those who help me avoid being forced to choose.”

~ Esther Dominguez

Meet Andy Bombeck… kidney transplant recipient and son of Erma Bombeck.

Growing up, I couldn’t have anticipated, the worst day of my life, and one of the best days would be related to Polycystic Kidney Disease. The worst day happened April 22, 1996, the day my mom passed away following a much anticipated kidney transplant. One of the best days of my life happened on April 11, 2003 when my girlfriend, Shari, donated a kidney to me and six months later we were married. Almost daily, I think about my mom. Even during the toughest years leading up to her transplant, her optimism remained incredible. My mom was always a fighter and lived every day like it could be her last. Today, I wish my mom was here on April 11, 2003, to celebrate my transplant. Anyone fighting kidney disease should use my mom as inspiration to keep moving forward and never give up.

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

~ Erma Bombeck

Meet Deja… successful pediatric kidney transplant patient at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

When Deja was suddenly sent to Phoenix Children’s Hospital emergency room, Rita Gooden learned her sweet daughter had end stage renal disease and needed a kidney. Deja was placed on the transplant list and endured two years of dialysis while waiting. “Although our family has been fractured by the devastation of Deja’s disease,” said Rita, “our family has grown in love. Our support system of immediate family, elementary school, and friends rallied around us and has remained incredibly strong.” Deja’s kidney transplant has been very successful.

Recently, the Gooden family received funds from an Arizona Women’s Board grant for vehicle repairs when their car broke down and Deja needed transportation to her medical treatment. “Blessings like this remind me that we are not alone,” said Rita. “Our community has our back. Do not live in fear. We can do this!”

“We are hard pressed in every way but not cramped beyond movement; we are perplexed but not absolutely with no way out.”

~ 2 Corinthians 4:8

Meet Lily… a sweet, active nine-year old girl waiting on something a lot more important than dessert or a new game… she needs a new kidney.

Diagnosed at the age of three with nephrotic syndrome, Lily and the nephrology team at Phoenix Children’s Hospital were able to keep her disease under control with medication and diet for five years. Then Lily became too sick and her kidneys had to be removed in October 2018. Now, Lily receives dialysis treatment three times a week while she waits for a kidney donor. It’s challenging as Lily’s diet and activity level are restricted and her immune system is compromised. But Lily’s mom, Rebecca Kopp, says Lily has stayed strong and steady throughout her ordeal.

Finding a live donor willing to give Lily a kidney would be the best outcome for this little girl who her mom calls a “rock star.” People in good health who undergo testing for ideal matching can live healthy, vibrant lives with only one kidney. Rebecca says the entire family, including Lily’s dad Tony Rios, and her parents have had a hand in Lily’s care and that the process has helped her daughter mature beyond her years.

“Lily has always been happy, strong and sweet. She never complains about anything and she has grown into such an incredible little girl.”

~ Rebecca Kopp

Meet Robert Bartelme… Valley native, parks supervisor, husband, father, volunteer and outdoor enthusiast.

As a City of Tempe employee for a quarter-century, Robert Bartelme, 51, has been counting down the years to retirement, imagining himself leading an active lifestyle in his golden years. That was, however, until his kidneys began to fail, threatening to rob him of his dreams. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 28, Robert had been managing the disease successfully ever since … or so he thought.

One day in Spring 2017, Robert blacked out completely. A series of tests indicated that his body was no longer filtering his insulin properly. The cause? His kidneys were failing. Dialysis helped, but it restricted his social life and curbed his Knights of Columbus volunteer activities. Thankfully, with a kidney donated by his daughter and the compassionate care at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Robert is back on track.

“I’m optimistic that I’ll be volunteering in no time, and that my retirement will allow me to go swimming, boating and fishing … all the things I’ve been missing.”

~ Robert Bartelme

Meet Marcus Seiler… focused on the future.

When Marcus was in his early teens, his family was tested for Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) because his father’s sister had passed away due to complications of the disease. While Marcus’ sister was found to be PKD-free, Marcus and his father were not. Twenty years later, after at-home and in-clinic dialysis, Marcus’ dad got a transplant that lasted more than ten years. Unfortunately, heart and kidney complications took him from Marcus’ family before he turned 70. Today, Marcus is 45 years old and his key vitals say that he is ahead of the game… for now.

“I am focused on being active, my diet, and holistic treatments.” said Marcus. “And I have a strong faith that before PKD starts to take more of an effect on me, science will afford the PKD community more medicines, treatments and transplant options that will make the rest of this journey a smooth one.”

“It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.”

~ Hippocrates

Meet Harriet Friedland… wife, mother, volunteer, leader, and Chairwoman of Arizona’s first Authors Luncheon.

Within days of moving to Arizona in 1974, Harriet began volunteering for the Arizona Kidney Foundation Women’s Board. Back then, raising funds for kidney programs involved potluck dinners and auctions, with Women’s Board members cooking and donating items from their homes for a great cause. After a few years, Arizona Kidney Foundation board member Erma Bombeck suggested to the Women’s Board volunteers that they put on an authors luncheon. Erma offered to invite her writer friends who she was certain would attend. Harriet bravely volunteered to chair this first-time event in 1980.

Erma invited her former next-door neighbor from Dayton, Ohio and talk show host Phil Donahue, best-selling author Judy Blume, and celebrity pediatrician Dr. Lendon Smith. Erma served as Emcee for the event. It was an immediate success, drawing more than 600 people in its first year. Since then, the Authors Luncheon has continued to flourish. “It was a diverse group of women, all ages, smart, capable, hardworking, competent… working together to maintain the direction for the cause,” says Harriet. Today, Harriet continues to be an advocate and inspirational leader for the Arizona Women’s Board, serving as a Sustaining Member and Emcee of the Authors Dinner, an exclusive opportunity for leading donors to enjoy conversations with the authors in an intimate setting the night before the Luncheon.

“Arizona Women’s Board is about people giving to people. Gaining strength from one another and filling a need. Women working together and making things happen.”

~ Harriet Friedland

Meet Patrick Pirrotte Ph D. … Assistant Professor, Cancer and Cell Biology Division, and Technical Director of TGen’s Collaborative Center for Translational Mass Spectrometry.

Funds from the Arizona Women’s Board grant to TGen Foundation have enabled Dr. Patrick Pirrotte, in partnership with Drs. Murtaza, Raupach and their respective teams, to study pediatric patient urine samples as a potential non-invasive approach for diagnosing kidney cancers and potentially other kidney diseases. In particular, the team has looked at urine DNA and how it may be organized with proteins and within vesicles. Until recently, urine DNA was understood to be largely degraded and not useful as a biomarker. The funded research may provide exciting opportunities for detecting and monitoring kidney cancer, as well as therapeutic efficacy in kidney cancer patients, through serial, non-invasive sampling of urine.
Detecting the DNA degradation pattern allows health practitioners to identify advancing disease in pediatric patients much earlier and far less invasively. The biomarker test serves as an early indicator of the chance of children developing kidney cancer and as an alternative to tumor biopsies.

“Our work has been drafted into a scientific manuscript and is currently under peer-review, thanks to the Arizona Women’s Board’s gracious donation.”

~ Patrick Pirrotte, Ph D

Meet Dr. Maher Mousa… a gerontology physician at Maricopa Integrated Health System (soon to be Valleywise Health) Dialysis Clinic.

One of our senior dialysis patients was experiencing major financial issues in 2018. She did not have money for food or for rent and was on the verge of being evicted. We were not aware of her personal situation until she started missing her lifesaving treatments. When we approached her with concern, she told us she was using the money she had set aside for her transportation to her clinical treatments for purchasing food instead, thereby risking her life by missing dialysis. Luckily, we were able to provide her with protein supplements and food through the Arizona Women’s Board grant.

“Generous support helps us save lives.”

~ Dr. Maher Mousa

Meet Dennis Thompson… floral and interior designer extraordinaire and principal at White House Design Studio.

I was first introduced to the Kidney Foundation by its Executive Director Glenna Shapiro. Growing up in New Mexico, kidney issues were always present in my family. My father died of kidney problems and my sister and I both have had kidney problems most of our lives.

For many years, Glenna would call me nearly every week. She was a great mentor to me and was always on the ready to give me sound advice, both private and professional. She showed me how to pass on a blessing where I can. The work of the Kidney Foundation, along with that of the Arizona Women’s Board through its annual Authors Luncheon, has always been an inspiration in my life to push myself to create change for the better.

“We are just one of God’s little beauty parlors.”

~ Unknown

Meet Laila Ward… a vivacious seven-year-old who is loved by everyone who crosses her path.

Laila is a patient at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. She was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure when she was just one year old. A few years later, at the age of four, it was discovered that Laila had Stage 4 Wilms’ Tumors, kidney cancer, and needed to have both kidneys removed. She is currently on peritoneal dialysis daily and waiting for a kidney transplant.

Laila’s kidney failure has impacted her life and family tremendously. Having four siblings and dealing with this disease has made it difficult for her mother to provide both financially and emotionally at times. Laila is a fighter.

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

~ Cayla Mills

Meet Carol Dahozy… retired nurse, wife, mother, grandmother and kidney donor.

At 64, Carol Dahozy, a retired nurse and mother of three, never had surgery … that is until she donated a kidney to save her husband’s life, just two years shy of the Chandler couple’s 50th anniversary. Her husband, Wilson, had always been as strong as an ox, so when he became sick, it was difficult for her to watch, she recalls. Wilson was succumbing to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that destroys the lungs. Simultaneously, his kidneys were failing, which, doctors thought, was due to lack of oxygen.

Wilson received a lung transplant in July 2017, but even though the new lungs were working at full capacity, the oxygen intake didn’t restore his kidney function. Carol knew she would donate her kidney in a heartbeat to save her husband’s life. “I got the call that I was a match the same day we were celebrating Wilson’s birthday with family,” she says. “It was a pretty emotional day for everyone.” Six months post-transplant, Carol knows she made the right decision.

“I can’t even tell the difference for myself, but Wilson’s life is so much better! Before, we couldn’t do anything because he had to always get home for the peritoneal dialysis, but now we can go anywhere!”

~ Carol Dahozy

Meet Wilson Dahozy… retired coal-miner and public works employee, husband, father and grandfather.

At 69, Wilson Dahozy has led a rugged life. He followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps in New Mexico by working in the coal mines for years, before moving his family to the Valley, where he had a hand in developing the 101, 202 and 303 highways. Along with a passion for rodeos, Wilson says, he’s “pretty much been in dust all the time.” Several years ago, Wilson began feeling short of breath and weak. Maybe it was asthma from all the dust, he thought. It wasn’t until he went into respiratory failure that doctors diagnosed him with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. They also discovered his kidneys were failing. The hope was a lung transplant would help him to breathe better, as well as circulate oxygen to his kidneys, possibly restoring function.

Wilson underwent a lung transplant procedure at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, home of the Southwest’s #1 lung transplant program, two years ago. It helped him breathe easier, but it wasn’t until he received a kidney donation from his wife of nearly 50 years, Carol, that he truly began to feel better. He may even feel strong enough to get back into rodeo-roping. “I just bought myself a new saddle, so you never know!”

“I never felt so good in my life. I owe the rest of my life to thanking my wife!”

~ Wilson Dahozy

Meet Leonard J. McDonald, Jr… father of three, grandfather of three with one on the way, and a partner with the law firm of Tiffany and Bosco, P.A.

Leonard was diagnosed in 1989 when a routine life insurance exam revealed a serious kidney disease. Through early detection and care, the disease was dormant for almost twenty years. Approximately twelve years ago, Leonard’s kidney function declined rapidly, ultimately requiring him to undergo dialysis treatment. Leonard’s twenty-six year old nephew Rob Traeger saved his life with the gift of life through a living donor transplant.

Leonard has seen the struggles of the underserved in the Arizona kidney community up close. His heart is filled with gratitude for the Arizona Women’s Board and all who attend the Authors Luncheon.

“I have personally witnessed the lives you are saving with the support you are so generously providing today.”

~ Leonard J. McDonald, Jr.

Meet Leslee Allen… wife, mother of three high school students, kidney health advocate, passionate community and philanthropic leader, and donor daughter to her kidney transplant recipient mother.

Considering kidney donation certainly can be a stressful experience. When the donation is going to your mother, it becomes an emotional experience. The idea of giving life back to the woman who gave me my life is what ultimately made me decide to go through with it. After finding out that I was a match, we scheduled surgery. I’m in one surgery room and she is in the one next door. In a short and minimally invasive surgery, my kidney is now functioning within her body. No more dialysis for her… immediately. It was an honor and a privilege to be able to do this for my mother.

“We make a life by what we give.”

~ Winston Churchill

Meet Aryn Collins, a renal dietitian at Maricopa Integrated Health System (soon to be Valleywise Health).

As a dietitian working with kidney patients, Aryn knows that patients lose protein during dialysis treatments and that protein is essential for maintaining body tissue and protecting against infection. Unfortunately, many of her patients cannot afford quality protein replacements such as eggs, meat and seafood, let alone the specialized renal formulas for fluid balance and nutrients that are often prescribed.

“The Arizona Women’s Board grant allows us to ship Ensure protein bars and drinks directly to our patients’ homes, dramatically improving nutrition and protein levels. The gratitude and positive impact on our patients’ health from something so simple is wonderful to see,” said Aryn. We have been able to improve nutritional status by providing a special formula to renal patients with feeding tubes. To meet other critical dietary patient needs, the grant enables staff to provide renal-friendly groceries to dialysis patients who arrive hungry, are unable to grocery shop, or have very limited incomes. Common food bank staple items like beans and potatoes are not healthy choices for underserved people with kidney disease.

“Our staff has the groceries packed and ready to go when the patients in need arrive for treatment.
Our patients’ relief and gratitude make the extra effort worth it.”

~ Aryn Collins, MS, RD

Meet Oliveth Serafica… nurse, mother and kidney donor.

Single mom Oliveth Serafica, 48, immigrated to the United States from the Philippines nearly 20 years ago to build a better life for her boys, who were only ages five and seven at the time. As a nurse, she knew she would have better career options, along with better pay and healthcare. Little did she know how much that would mean to her when her youngest son, Jeff, turned 25.

Jeff was a healthy, hardworking mechanical engineering student attending ASU when his vision was getting so blurry that Oliveth took him to the Emergency Room. Tests revealed he had diabetic retinopathy, but that didn’t make sense, she says. “My son didn’t have diabetes.” Once home, Oliveth retook his blood pressure, desperate to find answers. Discovering Jeff’s blood pressure was through the roof, she raced him back to the ER. Sadly, Jeff was so hypertensive he had suffered a stroke. The damage was extreme, impairing his cognitive abilities and his kidneys. Oliveth, who works in the lung transplant program at St. Joseph’s, didn’t hesitate to offer a kidney of her own to save her son’s life, and miraculously, she was a match.

One year later, Jeff is still participating in extensive rehabilitative therapy at St. Joseph’s, anxious to resume studies at ASU. “It will take time, but he’s still young and his future is bright,” says his mom.

“I feel blessed to be working at St. Joseph’s, because we’ve both had such excellent care there!”

~ Oliveth Serafica

Meet Samantha Pitta… a friendly, nerdy, talkative, artistic young woman.

Samantha, now 16, was diagnosed with HSP Nephritis two years ago. After some scary points and a lot of hard work and support, she is finally in a stable place in her life. According to Samantha, “it has been hard, I am tired a lot and hurt most days, but I do not let that dull my optimism one bit.”

In October 2018, Samantha attended the inaugural Camp Kidney. Camp Kidney is a camp devoted to children ages eight to eighteen who are experiencing kidney disease, kidney failure and other renal issues. This special camp, hosted in Prescott, provides a unique opportunity for these kids to just be kids, while in a safe and medically-equipped camp. Samantha says, “Camp Kidney allowed me valuable time-out where, for a little while, I didn’t have to think about being safe.”

“I met some new people and made the most amazing memories at Camp Kidney.”

~ Samantha Pitta

Meet Mayra Ramirez, LMSW… a licensed social worker at Maricopa Integrated Health System (soon to be Valleywise Health) Dialysis Clinic.

Mayra knows that most of her dialysis clinic patients do not drive, so during the hot summer months they are more likely to miss critical kidney treatments and get sick. Dialysis patients must also limit the amount of liquids they consume, so it makes walking in the heat and staying hydrated very challenging. Thankfully, the Arizona Women’s Board grant enables the clinic to provide emergency transportation when it is difficult for patients to travel for treatment.

The grant also provides for supportive care. “We had a dialysis patient who was admitted into the hospital, and upon discharge – because of a diabetes-related amputation – she was unable to transfer into the dialysis chair,” Mayra stated. This patient was completely dependent on her caregivers. Support from the Arizona Women’s Board helped the clinic purchase a hoyer lift so the patient could safely continue her treatment. The family was especially grateful since the patient was already going through a very difficult time.

“The gratitude expressed by families for transportation, supportive care and financial help is tremendous.”

~ Mayra Ramirez, LMSW

Meet Dominic Remington… an outgoing, active 10-year-old boy who loves to play soccer, swim, and sing along with Queen.

Dominic was born with kidney disease and put on dialysis at three months of age. Due to the nausea caused by kidney disease, Dominic had a gastrostomy tube (G-tube) inserted and did not learn to eat as a healthy baby would have been able to do. He was placed on the kidney transplant list at the age of four and found his donor just before his sixth birthday.

Because of frequent hospitalizations, dependence on a G-tube and multiple medications, Dominic has a difficult time regularly attending school or participating in over-night activities. For the first time last October, Dominic was able to attend Camp Kidney, which gave him a chance to be independent, participate in group activities with kids who have similar medical issues, and spend the night away from his understandably over-protective parents. He is still talking about the experience and constantly asking how long until the next camp. Despite the struggles life has sent Dominic’s way, he is a very confident young man.

“I got this!”

~ Dominic Remington

Meet Dawn Dybdahl… legal assistant and fitness fanatic who enjoys horseback riding, traveling, photography, music, reading and relaxing.

At the young adult age of 22, Dawn’s kidneys suddenly started failing due to pyelonephritis and she was forced to begin dialysis. She waited two and half years for a kidney, a wait well worth it. Twenty-nine years later, Dawn’s donor kidney is healthy and strong. Being faced with constant sickness, dialysis and surgery is something that she cannot even put into words. “I was 22 years old,” says Dawn. “I was supposed to be discovering life and having adventures.”

Dawn is incredibly grateful to her donor Joey. She had the honor of meeting his family many years ago and stays in contact with them. Just last November Dawn attended her donor’s daughter’s wedding! “It makes my heart so happy knowing that Joey’s family can see what an amazing gift they gave someone in need and that I am living my life because of their son.”

“When you are facing what seems to be an impossible challenge and believe there is no possible way you will have the strength to handle it, I promise that you will surprise yourself every time.”

~ Dawn Dybdahl

Meet Dr. Tina Younger… internist, quality director and medical education professor, overseeing the new Food Pharmacy at Maricopa Integrated Health System (soon to be Valleywise Health).

Our South Central Clinic is getting ready to open its doors to an exciting pilot program whereby food will be prescribed as preventative medicine. Due to our Arizona Women’s Board grant and a strong partnership with St. Mary’s Food Bank, we are bringing healthy foods to the very location where patients receive medical care. Having foods readily available will promote healthy eating, that in turn, prevents chronic illnesses such as diabetes and kidney disease from advancing.

When patients visit the new ‘Food Pharmacy,’ they will choose from a variety of healthy foods that align with diabetes meal planning. Diabetes is the number one risk factor for kidney disease. Patients who live with food insecurity will be identified via a two-question screening tool. Those with uncontrolled diabetes can participate in a six-month program to supplement their monthly food supply, have nutrition education and receive guidance on meal preparation via recipe cards. The goal is to have patients improve their diet and self-sufficiency, and to continue eating healthy beyond their enrollment. Doing so will improve patients’ ability to control their diabetes and thus prevent long-term complications, such as kidney disease.

“We are so thankful and excited to embark on a new program addressing food insecurity and
preventative health in patients with diabetes.”

~ Dr. Tina Younger

Meet Jessika Steier… middle child between two brothers, mother to a wonderful daughter and grandmother to a vibrant grandson.

In the Spring of 2000, Jessika was working and came home feeling like she had the flu. After spending a long night in the hospital, Jessika found out her kidneys were failing. Medical professionals could find no reason for this occurrence. Luckily, Jessika’s mother was a four out of six points match, so she donated a kidney to her daughter. Jessika was able to survive on that kidney for ten years. Unfortunately, it started failing after a medication change, so Jessika was forced to start home dialysis. For seven years, Jessika was able to work and take care of her own daughter, until one day, the home dialysis stopped working.

Jessika is now on hemodialysis, unable to work, however, she is able to watch her three-year-old grandson. Jessika is on the wait list for another kidney, hoping one is right around the corner, just for her. Ask Jessika why she has a K in her name and her answer is plain and to the point… “I’m Jessika with a K because I’m not like any other Jessica. I have a special journey to take.”

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

~ Lao Tzu

Meet Ryan Perkins… a young entrepreneurial Phoenician and a living kidney donor to Grizz Chapman from NBC’s TV series 30 Rock.

At age 23, Ryan stumbled upon information online that one could donate their kidney while still alive. He was excited to learn that the surgery had minimal risk to the donor and that receiving a living kidney would greatly improve the quality of life for the transplant recipient. During his research, Ryan was shocked to discover how profoundly dialysis impacted kidney patients’ lives. It takes hours out of a patient’s day, up to three days a week, and requires a full day or more to recover from each dialysis session. Ryan was heartbroken to realize there were so many fellow humans that barely get to live their lives because of what they had to do to stay alive. That was all Ryan needed to know to begin the donation process.

Today, Ryan and his recipient have been in great health for nearly ten years. Ryan advocates when sharing his story that kidney disease is life changing yet often preventable, which is why it is so important that people get their glomerular filtration rate (GFR) tested. Also, high blood pressure is a huge contributing factor to kidney failure. Ryan absolutely believes more people should entertain the idea of kidney donation because it is relatively low risk for the living donor while the benefits to the transplant recipient are incredible.

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”

~ Dr. Seuss

Meet Betsy Bombeck… social worker, community volunteer and daughter of the legendary humorist Erma Bombeck.

“I want to support the Arizona Kidney Foundation in a big way and have fun while doing it. I don’t want to attend another charity fashion show. I have friends who write, owe me some favors and could sell a few books in the bargain.” These were the thoughts that led to the spark of inspiration that created the most successful Authors Luncheon in the nation. A few hours away from kids, laundry, typewriter and deadlines and a laughter filled lunch with friends from the Women’s Board and the Authors Luncheon became reality. My mom wanted to give back, pay forward and do something that had never been done before and have fun with friends while doing it. She and my father believed in volunteering and relieving the stress and struggles of kidney patients and their families. Thanks to 40 great volunteer events by the Arizona Women’s Board!

“This is a luncheon to be proud of, and the kidney patients and their families will continue to feel the hope, love and support of everyone’s tireless (and tiring) efforts to make each year more successful.”

~ Betsy Bombeck

Meet Andrea Evans… wife, mother, community leader and publisher of Frontdoors Magazine.

Growing up, my Uncle Steve was my buddy and loved to tell me jokes. When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I overheard that Uncle Steve needed a kidney transplant from his sister. That was it —he seemed fine afterwards and little was spoken of the matter at family gatherings.

Fast-forward to 2016 and a Facebook alert that Uncle Steve was very sick — he needed a new kidney. Thankfully his daughter was a match and the transplant was a success. In 2018, the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona invited me to dance and raise funds for Dancing with the Stars Arizona. Yes! I was all in for Uncle Steve. What I didn’t know until I took on this challenge was that Uncle Steve had an even earlier transplant, in the 70s, from a stranger!

“I’m so glad my Uncle Steve could travel to celebrate his three successful kidney transplants with me at Dancing with the Stars Arizona 2019!”

~ Andrea Tyler Evans

Meet Lynne Love… philanthropist, community leader, girl Mom and President of the Arizona Women’s Board.

My first-born daughter Sarah was beautiful, blond and hazel-eyed with perfect yet extra teensy tiny fingers and toes. She was a preemie, born seven and a half weeks early, and weighing in at just four pounds, four ounces. “Good news, bad news,” my doctor told me regarding the results of my abdominal scan just days after her birth. “Your kidneys work, but one’s walnut-sized and only works a little. It’s a lucky congenital find thanks to the MRI, otherwise you might have known only if it gave you trouble. Preventive nutritional counseling can help avoid issues.”

What? Growing up, walnuts were family treats we snacked on in front of the fireplace on cold Michigan winter nights, surely not the size of one of my major organs? Now I’m just so grateful Sarah’s a healthy, happy young adult and that this incidental find allowed me to start early in life on a kidney-friendly diet.

“Thank you to all of you for helping support optimal kidney health for Arizonans!”

~ Lynne Love

Meet Vernadeen Vetterli… Founder and CEO of the National Kidney Foundation of Utah and Idaho, and sister of Glenna Shapiro.

The quote below embodies my sister’s life and mission. Her love and compassion for those with kidney disease motivated her work at the Arizona Kidney Foundation. She cast a stone there, and I was so touched by the passion I witnessed in her interactions with patients and their families. She worked tirelessly to raise millions of dollars to lighten their burdens.

Those funds led to programs that rippled for good in all directions. Financial support for essentials: rent, secured housing, utility bills; transportation to dialysis and medical appointments; scholarships to complete college and training, leading to independence and jobs that supported families; recreational camps for dialysis and transplant children to have joyful adventures with their peers; nutritional supplements and education to improve the strength and well-being of dialysis patients; kidney Early Evaluation Programs identifying those at risk and saving lives… and so much more.
The reach of her influence and example is beyond measure. She inspired me to found a National Kidney Foundation in my community and to passionately work for the good of those who suffer, something I have been doing for 32 years. The love and encouragement she offered to me, and to all those who knew her work has extended those ripples of love further and further. They continue to radiate good… outward and outward.

“I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples for good.”

~ Mother Teresa

Meet Lenni Griego… wife, mother, community advocate, Authors Luncheon Chair 2010, Arizona Women’s Board President 2013 – 2014, and Arizona Women’s Board Sustaining Member.

Forty strong, the Arizona Women’s Board is a highly respected organization in the Greater Phoenix community with deep and nurturing roots. Our singular goal since the first luncheon has been to ease the suffering of those with kidney disease, thus our affectionate nickname… the “kidney board.” Having a father who suffered from the disease, I appreciate these dedicated women who are committed to serving on the board, often for 25 and 30 years. As a result, we have become a close-knit committed group of friends. Planning a luncheon that delivers a memorable experience for generous patrons and guests is a unique multi-faceted yearlong activity involving authors, book sales, book signings, hotels, transportation, and public relations. Serving as both Board President and Luncheon Chair, I am in awe of what this small yet mighty group of enthusiastic women accomplishes each Fall with grace and élan. Most of all, I treasure the bonds of friendship that have brought us together as we raise millions of dollars to champion those with kidney disease.

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.”

~ Erma Bombeck

Meet Sheryl Cooper… wife, mother, dancer, actress, community advocate, and new mother-in-law to a kidney transplant recipient.

It was love at first sight for my daughter and Diego. He was an athletic, vivacious musician who immediately fit into our family. Although young, the signs were all there… true love is love, when and where you find it.

At first, Sonora noticed Diego would swell in his extremities. On vacations with us early in their romance, I could tell something was wrong. Unbeknownst to Sonora, Diego had been diagnosed at age three with kidney disease. He hid it very well. The disease had advanced to Stage V by the time we found out. They had just gotten engaged.

When this news came to light, everyone in the family scrambled to find a living donor. Diego has a rare blood type making a match daunting. He grew pale, grey and skeletal thin on dialysis as he waited. I was looking at a walking corpse.

After nearly two years, the mother of Diego’s best friend was the perfect match. It was not a flawless transplant – Diego faced rejection and jaundice. In intensive care, he battled a kidney that his body did not want to accept. The medical team was determined.

Diego recently had his one-year biopsy… a nerve-wracking experience with lots of clinical information. Newlyweds, Sonora and Diego held their breath as his doctor prepared to speak… there is no sign of rejection. Our prayers were answered. Nothing can separate these two now. They have the assurance of hope and the promise of a bright future.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

~ Proverbs 13:12

Meet Betsy Stodola… wife, mother, grandmother, volunteer, Authors Luncheon Chairman 1981, and Founding Member of the Arizona Women’s Board.

The first gathering was in Carol Bidstrup’s home. As Executive Director of the Arizona Kidney Foundation, her vision to create a fundraising women’s board was personal. Her two young sons had an inherited fatal kidney disease, and it was her desire to build awareness and support for the debilitating illness affecting her boys. One by one, she called her friends together and the Founding Women’s Board membership grew to nineteen. A small group, we did the work ourselves to raise funds. We collected S & H green stamps, glued them in books and redeemed them for cash. We sold tickets to the Copper Star Morgan Horse Show and held garage sales selling Indian baskets, pottery and jewelry, all the rage in the 1970’s. We donated items and then purchased them back at above-market prices. We didn’t make much, yet our fundraisers were getting publicity and attendance at events was increasing.

When I was Authors Luncheon Chairman in 1981, authors Marabel Morgan, Rosemary Rogers and Sidney Sheldon paid for their round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations. Sidney Sheldon made a $500 contribution. The authors understood that we needed their help in the beginning. Years later, Carol put her house on the market and my husband and I purchased it. I had already made so many wonderful memories there, it just felt right.

“I’ve seen the motherhood role played by men, grandparents, friends, aunts, and even social workers. It doesn’t matter who plays it. What does matter is that when the curtain goes up each day, someone is there to dazzle, ad-lib, support, comfort, listen, and fulfill what I feel is the most important role I’ll ever be offered in my life. It’s the only one I’ll be remembered for.”

~ Erma Bombeck

Meet Susan Shapiro… daughter of Glenna Jones Shapiro.

My mother was compassionate. And notoriously passionate. For decades she was immersed in the fight against kidney disease. It had taken or affected the lives of many who were dear to her.

Her work with the Kidney Foundation wasn’t a job she did sometimes. It was what she talked about at dinner, in the car, at social occasions… seeking solutions to challenges, asking for help. She used every resource and ability she had access to. As one of her co-workers said, she was “all in, all the time.” She never missed an opportunity to engage others.

I just read an article she wrote 15 years ago on organ donor awareness, and I checked some current statistics. Did you know more than 100,000 Americans are waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant? The average wait time is 3 to 7 years. So in the Glenna spirit, I’ll ask you: Have you considered donating an organ? And if you have made the decision to donate, have you shared that decision with family and registered your wish?

“Giving is not just about making a donation. It is about making a difference.”

~ Kathy Calvin, United Nations Foundation

Meet Diane Fountain… Jersey Girl (summers at the Jersey Shore long before Snooki), great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother of Arizona Women’s Board Member, Nadine Hart.

Diane reinvented herself at the age of 52 when she took a job at the Scottsdale Community College Advising Office. She worked there for 30 years! Diane often wondered if anyone knew her true age during her employment there.

Always active, Diane is notoriously known for never sitting still when visiting her family. She organizes their closets, waters their plants, plays with her grandchildren, and even keeps the family dogs on the run. In the spring of 2014, when Diane was 82 years young, she retired from Scottsdale Community College just as her daughter Nadine joined the Arizona Women’s Board. Diane enjoyed hearing about Nadine’s efforts on the Board to raise funds for kidney disease. Then, in August of 2015, doctors found a malignant tumor in Diane’s left kidney and performed a partial nephrectomy. Suddenly, the whole family was talking about kidney disease. Thankfully, the tumor was encapsulated and had not spread. The experience slowed Diane down only for a short period of time. Now, she is active again and looks forward to attending the Authors Luncheon every year with Nadine and her sisters.

“Seize the moment. Remember all of those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

~ Erma Bombeck

Meet Kimberly Jacobsen… wife, mother, community advocate and member of the Arizona Women’s Board.

Tristan is my son’s best friend and has been like a son to me for a nearly a dozen years. Our families met when the boys were at All Saints Episcopal Day School together. It was devastating when sweet Tristan’s kidneys failed as he reached kindergarten. The type of kidney disease he has – focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS – is incurable. His immune system misidentified his kidneys as dangerous and attacked them until they could no longer perform. He was only five.

After emergency surgery to remove his kidneys, Tristan underwent dialysis three times a week, for three hours each visit. Even a little boy can only play so much Nintendo. Fortunately, his mother was a donor match and she did not hesitate to have an organ removed, knowing how profoundly it would help her son. The surgery went well and Tristan’s new kidney went right to work. We have watched him grow into the handsome and healthy young man he is today – a junior in college and still best buddies with our son.

Prior to the surgery, Tristan had asked his mom why people have two kidneys if they only need one. She told him it was so you could give the other one to someone who needs it.

“Tristan is the reason I support the Arizona Women’s Board and the Authors Luncheon.”

~ Kimberly Jacobsen

Meet Glenna Shapiro… wife, mother, friend, sister, Honorary Founding Member of the Arizona Women’s Board, and a former Executive Director of the Arizona Kidney Foundation who led the organization for nearly three decades.

It was through Glenna that Erma Bombeck was asked to support the Women’s Board. A friend to many of the members, Erma had the inspiration for the first Authors Luncheon. She suggested a fundraiser featuring her friends and fellow authors who would talk about their latest releases. Erma asked Phil Donahue to be one of the first. They had long been friends living across the street from each other while raising their families in Ohio. Phil’s five children were the source for many of Erma’s humorous stories.

As Executive Director, Glenna would also share stories… kidney patient stories. In meetings she would repeatedly ask — how and who will this help? At the Authors Luncheon, Glenna stood at the podium and shared stories of individuals impacted by kidney disease. In the early years, her stories were somber. There was not much hope for those afflicted with the fatal disease. Today, with research, technologies and devices, along with the support of organ donors, families and community programs, patients with kidney disease can lead long and prosperous lives.

Thank you, Glenna, for making stories central to our mission and our event. Because of your passion for kidney health, the Authors Luncheon has been more successful than any of the Founding Board Members could have imagined.

“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.”

~ Madeleine L’Engle

Written by the Arizona Women’s Board in honor of Glenna Shapiro