My life began on January 4, 1972 in Seattle, Washington. I was born a healthy girl. I weighed seven pounds and two ounces. I had strawberry blonde hair as a child and it started to darken, as I got older. I would eventually become a brunette. My parents named me Krisna Mae Reece. My dad knew some people who had named their daughter Krisna and he thought it was pretty. So, that's how I got my first name. My middle name was for my great grandmother, Ather May Burrell Reece Ebeling. My dad misspelled it, though. The story goes like this; my great grandmother married again after my great grandfather passed away to Leonard A. Ebeling. I guess Leonard didn't like the name Ather so, he called her Mae, and that is what she went by until she passed away.
I spent the first three years of my life in the West Seattle area. One of the houses we lived in was on a steep hill. My dad told me that I liked to run down that hill, but I was not supposed to go past our driveway. Of course, that did not stop me from running clear to the bottom of the hill. My dad would chase after me and then I would get a spanking. I do not remember getting spanked, but my dad said that I did. Therefore, I guess I did. I do not believe spanking should be a first resort, but I also believe that my dad handled it great. He only used it as a last resort and usually only if I did something that could harm me or if I lied to him. All the other times I got into trouble I just got grounded or chewed out. One thing is for sure though, my dad always made sure I knew why I was being punished.
We moved to Kent sometime before I turned four. We moved into a rental house on 121st Avenue Southeast. I went to a sitter across the street named Lou Ellen. Sometimes another lady in the neighborhood would watch me. Her name was Dixie. There were lots of other kids in my neighborhood when I was little. Our neighbors to the right of our house were Skipper and Mike. Lou Ellen’s kids were Stacy and Andy. Dixie’s son was Bart. Skip and his brother used to throw rocks at me while I was in my back yard and they were in their back yard. I would get even by running into them with my big wheel. Lou Ellen also watched Skipper and Mike. Lou Ellen’s daughter and I used to chase Skipper around taunting and teasing him and chanting, Skipper, Skipper, Skipper repeatedly. That is what he was called when he was little. Now that that I think about it that was probably why he and his brother were throwing rocks at me. His family eventually moved away and I forgot about him until years later. I will explain later on how we came to be reunited. By then his name which is actually a nickname given to him by his mom was shortened to Skip or Skippy. Although I still get away with calling him Skipper sometimes. I know that he remembers all of that because we've talked about it. I am sorry Skippy.
We moved to the house across a street after buying it from some neighbors when I five. We needed a bigger house because my mom was expecting my first sister. Kari was born in the early fall 1977 in Seattle, Washington. The house was orange with brown trim. I thought it was the most ghastly thing I ever saw. I hated that color so much. That house at 27251 121st Avenue Southeast would be the house where I would grow up. The fall after we moved into the new house when Kari was still a newborn, our next door neighbors' house caught fire. The fire destroyed the kitchen and garage. It also damaged the wood fence between our houses, an apple tree and a cherry tree in our yard plus the side of our house.
The fire started when our neighbors were having their kitchen floor re-tiled. My dad said that they had hired some people from their church who didn't really know what they were doing. According to my dad the fire department determined, the men working in the house failed to blow the pilot light out in the gas furnace. The flame ignited the fumes from the glue and that caused an explosion. The men escaped but they were badly burned.
I remember my dad running inside our house yelling, “Judy, get the kids out of the house! The neighbor’s house is on fire!” We were taken across the street and I remember my mom handing Kari to a neighbor saying, “Here hold my baby, I have to go help my husband.” I remember watching as the fire jumped to the wooden fence that separated our two yards and then to the apple tree in ours before finally jumping to our house. That was when my parents began throwing the brand new furniture out of our house. I was afraid that our house would burn down and well, that I would lose all my favorite toys. I was a child and I did not understand that people could lose their lives in a fire.
By the time the fire department arrived, the fire had destroyed the neighbors' kitchen and garage. They were able to save ours, but our neighbors lost everything except their cars and their lives. They were not home when the fire started, but they returned just in time to get their other car out of the garage. I remember that some of the other neighbors had to hold the wife back because she kept trying to run into the house to rescue her belongings. They were able to recover a few things from the ruins of the kitchen but the garage was completely destroyed. My mom retyped the wife’s cookbooks and put the pages into three ring binders. Insurance paid for the damage; it covered all of the damage. My dad helped them clean out the damage parts of the house. He told me that they tore all the walls out. When they were done with the repairs the inside of the house was totally different. The only bad thing was that they only painted the one side so that side was gray and the rest was still orange. From then on, I was terrified of fire. Any time I would see one on the news I would be unable to move or speak.
The summer after I turned six I got the Chicken Pox. My sister, Kari, was almost a year old. It was hot that summer. So, my mom let us go out and play in the wading pool. She did this even though we had the Chicken Pox. Therefore, it is very likely that I got a staphylococcus from being outside and letting my pox get dirty. I would start the first grade in the fall not knowing that I was a very sick little girl. I never imagined I would be fighting for my life by the time I was in the second grade.
I entered first grade in the fall of 1978. I went back to Pine Tree Elementary and my teacher this year was Mrs. Durand. I joined the Girl Scouts that year and became a Brownie. I loved to go to school on days that we had our Brownie meetings so I could wear my uniform. I made a lot of friends in school and in Brownies. I stayed friends with most of them through high school.
I had been showing symptoms that something was wrong with me for quite some time. However, I do not remember when exactly they started and I do not remember what all of them were. My parents have given me conflicting stories. The ones I do remember are losing control of my bladder, excruciating back and abdominal pain, and chronic ear infections. Later on, I would become anemic and show protein in my urine. Even then, my pediatrician failed to notice the signs. He treated me for the ear infections and when my parents asked about the other things he just said that I was lazy and did not want to get up to go to the bathroom and I did not want to go to school. I loved school and I hated it when I did have to miss it because I was too sick to go. Because of his misdiagnosis, I ended up missing almost the entire second grade.
My sister, Kelli, was born in the summer of 1979 in Seattle, Washington. She was born premature for the standards of the time, but by today’s standards, she was perfectly normal. I think one of the reasons that we did not get along growing up is because we did not really get the chance to bond when she was a baby. What I mean, for example is that Kari and I played together when she was a baby and that just continued, as she got older. Out of all of my sisters Kelli is the one I had the most trouble bonding with. I am happy to say that we have a good relationship now. I believe we had trouble bonding and I think that at least part of it is because of my illness and hospitalization while Kelli was a baby. We did not get to spend as much time together as Kari and I did. I also think that because Kari and I are closer in age we got along better growing up. I get along well with all my sisters and I love them all.
I began second grade at Pine Tree Elementary in the fall of 1979. My teacher that year was, Mrs. Doris Amundson. I also began my second year in the Girl Scout Brownies that year.
My ear infections didn't get better and I eventually had a tube put into my right ear to help it drain. That tube fell out and I needed to have another one put in. My parents signed me into the hospital on November 19, 1979 and said goodnight. Back then the hospital did not allow overnight visitors and you were required to spend the night before your surgery at the hospital. My parents told me they would be back first thing in the morning. Of course, I was upset, but I knew they could not stay.
My parents have told me that the phone was ringing off the hook when they walked through the door. It was the hospital calling to say, “If you want to see your daughter you better get up here right away, because she has gone into congestive heart failure.” Then the nurse told them hold on, “She’s being transferred to Children’s Hospital in Seattle.” That was where I met Dr. Robert Hickman, who diagnosed me with End Stage Renal Disease or Stage 5 Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown origin. My dad asked if it would get better and Dr. Hickman said no. He told my parents that I had lost approximately seventy-five percent of my total kidney function. He also told them that it was too late to do a biopsy to see why my kidneys had failed, but he did say what type. He then told then that I would eventually need either dialysis or a transplant. Dr. Hickman explained both the transplant and dialysis to us. My parents and I decided on a transplant. My dad has always been honest with me about my health and life in general. I am truly grateful for that. I believe it helped me deal with things in the long run!
Both of my parents were tested and my dad was the best match. He was a five-antigen match and my mom was only a one-antigen match. My two sisters were too young at the time. Kari was two years old and Kelli was only four months old. They stayed with our paternal grandmother Launetta Reece in Snoqualmie, Washington While I was in the hospital so that my parents could spend time with me.
My mom showed signs of her mental illness when I was very young, but I did not understand until I was almost a teenager. My parents would come up to see me in the hospital and my mom would leave. My dad told me that she would go off and talk to other parents to try to gain sympathy from them. I do not ever remember her being in my room for very long.
My grandmother, Launetta Reece has always been there for all of us. She has taken in many of my cousins and other family members over the years. Whenever I need someone to pray with, all I have to do is call her and she will pray with me over the phone. If it is something bad, she will call members of her church and put it on the prayer chain. I sure believe it has helped me over the years whether it was by praying for me or with me. She has also helped by just being someone I can talk to any time day or night.
The matriarch of my family is my great grandmother, Edith Hansen Orr DeVoy. She is my grandma Reece’s mom. She was born on May 3, 1904 in Clarion, Iowa. Her parents later settled in what used to be called Sanish, North Dakota. Sanish, Van Hook and the other surrounding towns were flooded and it is now Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. The town is now called New Town. She has had her own share of health problems. She has fought cancer several times and in multiple places. It is clear to me where I get my strength and my will to live.
I was able to go home on weekend passes, but I was always back because I was short of breath. Our heath insurance would not pay for an ambulance back then. My dad would stop in at the State Patrol to try to get a police escort, but they would not do that so they would tell my dad where they would be patrolling that night. This was so that my dad could slow down before the speed traps and not get a ticket. We did this several times before I got my first transplant. I remember it like it was yesterday. My dad is driving the car and I am sitting on my mom’s lap, we did not have the seat belt law back then. She has her window cracked and I am crying, “Mommy, I can’t breathe.” I was a very scared little girl. My dad always told me the truth about my health. Therefore, I knew that I could die and I knew what the word die meant. My grandfather had died when I was four. However, I was determined to live. After all, I had two little sisters to pick on as they grew up with me.
My dad and I had fun while I was in Children’s, though. The hospital had a room they called, "the playroom." The playroom was where the children who were able to leave their room could play with toys or do arts and crafts. I used to love to go down there. Several top floors of the hospital were closed because they were under construction. Late at night, my dad would put me in a wheel chair and we would go exploring up on those floors. Sometimes we would be caught, but we would just say, “Oh we got lost” or “we got off on the wrong floor.” Oh, that was a blast. They had these carts like wheel chairs there I used to love to ride in because I could lie down or sit up in a reclining position. Everyone called them “banana carts,” I do not know what they are really called, but they were cool.
My dad knew the hospital because he hadbeen a patient there when he was a child. He had two brain tumors as a child. The first one was at the age of nine and the second was at the age of fourteen. They had both been different types of tumors and they had both been in different areas of the brain. The doctors had told his parents that he would end up a vegetable if he survived the surgeries. He proved them wrong.
My dad, Jerry Reece was born in 1949 in Sedro Woolley, Washington to Kenneth and Launetta Reece. He was their second child and the first son. His sister, Linda had been born in 1947 also in Sedro Woolley, Washington. Their youngest child Michael was born in 1952 in Mount Vernon, Washington. They eventually moved to Snoqualmie, Washington where my grandfather would live until he died from lung cancer on November 10, 1976 in Bellevue, Washington. My grandmother continued to live there for many years after his death. My dad, his siblings, and my cousins spent many holidays there. I had four cousins who were older than I was and one that was a year younger. Linda eventually divorced her first husband for private reasons. Linda eventually married Everett or Ed in 1968 their children were Lisa and Edward. Everett also adopted Linda's daughter Kimberlee (Kim for short). Michael’s children were Joe and Jamie. Let us see, Kim has one son name John. Lisa has two daughter’s named Sarah and Danya and a son named Mathew. Lisa gave Danya up for adoption. It was an open adoption though, so we get to see her occasionally.
My mom was born Judy Sides in Superior, Montana in 1947. She had eight brothers and sisters. The eldest was William was born in1938, Thomas born in 1939, Kathleen born in1941, Eugene born in 1943, John born in1944, then my mom, Anita was born in 1950, Suzanne was born in 1955, Frederic in 1957. Both Thomas and Anita were born deaf and they were sent to a deaf school.
My transplant had to be postponed because I got viral Pneumonia. I think it was postponed about a month. I remember being in an oxygen tent. I could not leave my room and I think everyone who came in had to where a mask and a gown. I also had to go on dialysis for about a month. My parents and Dr. Hickman had been trying to avoid that. I remember what that was like. I got sick to my stomach every time I had to be dialyzed. The doctor said that I could eat things like potato chips during the first hour of my treatment, but I only did that the first couple of times because I would just throw it back up. There were so many restrictions back then. The restrictions were as follows: no sodium, no potassium, and no dairy. Things were much more strict back then and I can honestly say that things are a lot better now. Although they have yet to find a cure for glomerulonephritis, dialysis treatments are a lot better. We can live for many years on dialysis and many more with a transplant. Just look at how long I have lived with the same disease that killed my great-great grandmother. I know that God is watching over me and I know that I am still here because my family needs me.