On Sunday, June 5, members of the Lake Erie College community gathered at the Great Lakes Science Center in downtown Cleveland to participate in the 2016 Northeast Ohio Kidney Walk. Clad in green LEC shirts, the team walked in honor of two of the College’s most beloved employees, Kelly Knauf, assistant director of physical plant, and Rabi Hasan, professor of finance and economics, both of whom have battled kidney disease.
Prior to the event, the College community took part in a spirited fundraising competition, with the staff backing Team Knauf and the faculty backing Team Hasan. Collectively the College raised $5,605, nearly tripling the initial $2,000 goal and earning the College third place among fundraising teams behind Cleveland Clinic and The Illuminating Company. Knauf, Hasan, and Hasan’s wife, Zeenat, were also honored at the event for their impressive individual fundraising efforts.
Donations for the Kidney Walk are still being accepted through the end of June. To make a donation to Team Lake Erie College, visit http://donate.kidney.org/site/TR?company_id=82144&fr_id=8016&pg=company. Learn more about Knauf’s and Hasan’s experiences in the biographies below.
Held in nearly 100 communities, the Kidney Walk is the nation’s largest walk to fight kidney disease. Kidney disease affects 26 million Americans and is a top 10 public health problem, with 1 in 3 Americans at risk for developing kidney disease. The National Kidney Foundation is the leading organization in the United States dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease for hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, millions of patients and their families, and tens of millions of Americans at risk.
As one of the most recognizable faces on campus, Kelly Knauf has been a member of the LEC family for the past 15 years. She currently serves as the assistant director of physical plant, working behind the scenes to make the College run. With her spirited personality and witty comebacks, many members of the LEC community weren’t aware until recently that Kelly has been living with kidney disease for the past 7 years. This fact alone is a testament to Kelly’s perseverance and selflessness, always going above and beyond to do her part at LEC.
Kelly was diagnosed in 2009 with fibrillary glomerulonephritis, a very rare primary glomerular disease. “When I was in the process of being diagnosed, I learned there are only 1 in 1,000,000 people who get this particular disease,” she said. “I thought for sure they wouldn’t diagnose me with this one!”
Following her initial diagnosis, Kelly first went through 6 months of a treatment similar to chemotherapy at UH before ultimately going on dialysis in November 2012. Through January of this year, Kelly went to dialysis 3 days a week for 3.5 hours per treatment, all the while waiting on the transplant list for a new kidney to arrive, yet knowing that her particular antigens would make finding a match difficult.
On the morning of January 8, at last, Kelly received the call that a match had been found. She’d received similar calls in the past that proved to be false alarms, but when she got a second call telling her to come to the hospital, she knew this was the real deal.
Happily, Kelly’s new kidney started working right away. “It was a bittersweet feeling of relief and mourning after my surgery,” she said. “You mourn for someone you didn’t even know.”
With her new kidney and her new perspective, Kelly now plans to be an advocate for organ donation in general, not just for kidneys. “In the grand scheme of things, I felt fortunate that the organs I had issues with were my kidneys,” she said. “That sounds odd, but with kidneys you have dialysis as a sort of life support. You don’t have those kinds of life sustaining options with other organs.”
When told that the College would be sponsoring a team at the Kidney Walk in her honor, Kelly said she feels very blessed. “I can’t tell you how wonderful the College community has been throughout this process,” she said. “It’s been so overwhelming. I’m moved to have people walking in my honor and I appreciate the awareness we’re bringing not just to us but to all people waiting for organs. It’s really something I can respect and appreciate.”
Rabi Hasan has been a dedicated faculty member of Lake Erie College for nearly 20 years. In his role as professor of finance and economics, Rabi has taught hundreds of students about international business, investments, financial planning and beyond.
Throughout his time at LEC, Rabi has faced his share of hurdles related to his health. Following a heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery in 2002, Rabi was diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease in 2007. At that time he learned his options would be to eventually go on long-term dialysis or to seek a kidney transplant, which prompted him to join the transplant list at two different hospitals.
By 2011, Rabi had yet to receive a call about a kidney and realized he would need to begin dialysis. Rather than let this happen, Rabi’s daughter, Rifat, underwent testing and discovered she was a match with her father. “My daughter was very persistent in convincing me to accept a kidney from her,” Rabi said. “She wanted me to have a quality life.” While agreeing to accept a kidney from his daughter was one of the hardest decisions Rabi has ever made, he’s extremely grateful to her and feels blessed that his new kidney is working and that his daughter is doing well.
Rabi has been involved with the Kidney Walk in the past, participating two or three times with his daughter and raising money to support research toward finding the cause and a cure for kidney disease. For Rabi, the best part about the Kidney Walk is the financial support it lends to modern science. He feels very lucky to have had access to great medical facilities and to have benefited firsthand from the marvels of modern medicine and research. “Every day I feel blessed and I keep that in mind,” he said.
Rabi stresses that this process would have been very difficult without the enduring support of his family and friends. “My wife, daughter and son-in-law have been there for me each step of the way,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough.”
Similarly, Rabi feels very honored to have members of the College community walking in his honor at the Kidney Walk, noting that the LEC family has been very supportive of him throughout his health issues. “I find it very satisfying to have LEC championing kidney health and I think our College takes part in very generous activities,” he said. “It’s always good to give if one can.”Back To News