by Amy Reinhardt
Special to The Leaven
Eight months ago, my life changed forever. I was diagnosed with Goodpasture syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own lungs and kidneys.
If you’d told me that I’d have an autoimmune disease at 27, I would’ve said you were crazy. How could someone with hardly any medical history end up with kidney failure?
It all started with what I believed to be a bad case of food poisoning. What followed was a few weeks of repeated episodes of vomiting, nausea, night sweats, coughing and other strange symptoms.
After two negative Covid-19 tests, I set up a doctor’s appointment. The nurse practitioner said they’d run blood tests and get back to me the following day.
The next morning on July 21, I received a call. My doctor told me the results showed that my kidneys were failing. She said I needed to get to the ER immediately because my creatinine and hemoglobin levels were critical.
I remember being confused and scared. I knew I’d been feeling crummy, but nothing prepared me for the news that I was in renal failure.
I was admitted to the ICU that same night to begin dialysis and plasmapheresis treatments. My nephrologist started me on chemotherapy and corticosteroid drugs to combat the anti-GBM (Goodpasture syndrome) antibodies.
I spent the next 20 days at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.
It’s been less than a year since that call from my doctor and my life has never been the same. I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds and more than 75% of my hair. I’ve been following a strict renal diet and taking a handful of pills twice a day. Every night, I hook myself up for a 12-hour dialysis treatment.
Being immunosuppressed has meant avoiding crowds and always wearing a face mask. I had to rely on all kinds of technology to stay connected to my friends.
It was hard limiting my social life. I hated turning down certain invitations. But I knew my health was more important.
To this day, I still have to be cautious about where I go and what I do.
After months of living at home, I decided to give up my one-bedroom apartment. With all the ups and downs of my health, I needed my family close by. It was a relief not to waste money on rent and utilities, but after living on my own for over four years, I was sad to lose my independence.
I don’t need to lie and tell you that my journey has been an easy one. There have been many days where I’ve cried, yelled, cursed and sulked. I can admit it’s tough to be connected to a dialysis machine. It’s tough to be more susceptible to infection. It’s tough getting tired so easily. Bottom line: It’s tough to be sick.
Little did I know that God had a reason for giving me the cross of end-stage renal disease. It was never meant to punish, but rather to sanctify. Embracing the weight of my cross has given me lasting joy and reaffirmed my hope in the Lord’s goodness.
Since that first day in the hospital, God has been by my side, giving me the strength and courage I’d need to keep fighting. He’s surrounded me with so much love that there’s no room for any fear or anger.
I never understood how someone could suffer joyfully until my diagnosis. When I was in the hospital the first time, I remember praying and promising to offer all my suffering to God. I knew I couldn’t carry this burden on my own. Instead of casting blame and feeling sorry for myself, I put my full trust in his divine will.
By accepting my illness, I had the opportunity to grow closer to Jesus, the One who knows. He who knows all my pain, fear, loneliness, frustration, weakness and confusion. He is with me through it all.
In this earthly life, we will all experience crosses of different sizes. Each one is designed intimately by God. He knows exactly what we’re capable of handling when we rely on him instead of ourselves.
I had no idea how strong and brave I was until getting diagnosed with Goodpasture syndrome. It’s made me into a powerful witness. One that uses her God-given testimony to encourage others.
If I could share one piece of wisdom with all of you, it’s this: When you’re in the midst of suffering and you feel lost and alone, quietly say this prayer: “Dear Jesus, I trust in you.”
It brings me comfort and I hope it does the same for you.
At 28 years old, Amy Reinhardt is an Overland Park native and has been a parishioner at Church of the Ascension for over half her life. If you’d like to read Amy’s health updates, you can follow online at: www.caringbridge.org/visit/amyreinhardt.