Woman dedicates life to destigmatizing kidney disease

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Darvece Monson uses her disability to make life easier for others. (WLS)

A young woman in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood is using her disability to make life easier for others. After she couldn't find the support she needed, she made it her mission to create a support system for a group who need it.

Darvece Monson, a former nurse and personal trainer, spends her days at nursing homes, beauty salons, and other places where people gather, to spread the word about kidney disease. Monson learned about the effects of kidney disease first hand during a difficult pregnancy.

"I was hospitalized for three and a half-weeks and diagnosed with full-blown end-stage renal disease," Monson said. "I had to start chemotherapy dialysis immediately."

With a newly implanted catheter in her heart, Monson found the condition both debilitating and financially draining.

"Around this time last year my medications were $728 a month. I had just lost my job. For the first time in my life I got on Medicare and Medicaid, I got on link. That's all I had," said Monson.

With a young daughter to support, Monson went to work. Navigating the system, finding grants and programs, she eventually started her own non-profit organization called More Than Your Kidneys, to help others in similar circumstances, especially ethnic minorities.

"Some of us are just not aware or we have accepted that this is our norm because we know so many people that have diabetes and 'Oh so-and-so has sugar or so-and-so has pressure' and we're not proactive," she said.

Monson has given speeches all over the country. She recently met with kidney transplant recipient George Lopez. All while she, herself, still waits for a donor.

"I can understand when someone comes to me and they talk about the complexities that they are dealing with because I have been there," said Monson. "But I also know that there is a better way and it can be turned around and that they hold the power."

Monson has been on the waiting list for 19 months waiting for a new kidney.

For more information on More Than Your Kidneys, visit www.morethanyourkidneys.org.
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societychicago proudNear South SideChicagoPilsen
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