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Kidney Failure and Diabetes

A diabetic for over 10 years, Linda was all too familiar with the need for maintaining her health and following up on doctors’ appointments. However, as Linda would describe herself, she was non-compliant.

Her diabetes had caused her kidneys to fail, also leading to congestive heart failure. By the time she received care, she was dying.

Linda ultimately was referred to Penn Medicine nephrologist Irwin Goldstein, MD. He gave her the life-altering news that she would need to undergo dialysis.

Life Before Kidney Failure: The Journey

Linda Jackson, husband and grandson in churchLinda and her husband Howard have been married for 48 years. Years which she describes as “a journey; it’s been a journey and it’s been a good one.”

As an active mother and grandmother, Linda was a perpetual student - always trying to advance herself professionally.

Not only did she work in the Penn Medicine healthcare system, but she was an active member of her church, a volunteer and the former Democratic Committee member for the city of Philadelphia manning voting polls. She was a very active community member, even forming a group against neighborhood drug activity which she found very rewarding.

Her husband Howard describes her as a “beautiful wife and beautiful mother to the children. Until her health declined, she had a beautiful life going for her.”

10 years after she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Linda’s health began rapidly declining. She managed with medication but says, “I was not the best patient or the most compliant. I think what I thought was that whatever was going on with me was not that serious.”


“I just had to get myself together to realize that, if I did not have the dialysis, I would not live,” Linda says.

She began dialysis in May of 2006.

Two weeks into treatment, she was told that she would need a kidney transplant.

Linda recalls, “I really felt well and hopeful because I knew the wonders of transplants. I looked forward to it because I just didn’t think of that being an option.”

As a retired Penn Medicine employee, she “trusted and was determined to be at Penn.”

The Solace of Song

Linda persevered through dialysis, even when tragedy struck.

It was a Sunday when her son passed away.Linda crying in church pew

Despite the absolute despair and anguish, Linda was at dialysis on Monday morning. Her kidneys depended on it. And her family depended on her.

Linda received solace in singing with her church. “The singing, being able to sing, was, it enhanced my life. It gave me a sense of peace and sanitary. I felt like if I can sing, I’ll get better. If I can sing, I’ll be better.”

“I always had hope that I would be eligible for and receive a kidney… and so, that became my goal,” she continues. “That’s what made me fight for my life even harder.”

Linda’s daughter, Stacy, was a match for a kidney transplant; however, during the evaluation process, doctors discovered that Stacy had a condition called sarcoidosis. The condition prevented her from giving her mother a kidney – news which devastated the family even more.

“I was determined to fight to live and ultimately I wound up getting that call in May of 2009.”

Angels Calling

After three years on dialysis, failing health and her husband needing to take an early retirement to care for her, Linda received the call she’d been waiting for. A kidney had become available, and she was a match.

Speeding to Penn Medicine, she and Howard were stopped by police officers.

After hearing the reason for their speedy driving, the two female police officers escorted them to the Emergency Room at Penn Medicine.

“Later, nobody in the city could figure out who those two police women were,” Linda says with awe. “They said that there were no police women in the area with that car number. I believe that they ware angels of some sort.”

Today Linda Is Not Just Living, She’s Thriving!

Five hours after entering surgery, Linda awoke with a new kidney.Church choir singing

“I was so happy and so filled with joy that I had a new lease on life. That I had a new kidney that was functioning."

“I knew then that I had to really continue to fight and fight harder because even though I had the kidney, the true fight, the real fight, started at that moment. I would not experience any rejection of any kind…. I would not lose the kidney or lose my life.”

Linda attributes her ability to thrive by the grace of God and the strength and support of her wonderful husband Howard, four children, 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren – whom she hopes will be able to live to see through the special moments in their life.

“I’m thriving because I am able to do things that I thought I’d never be able to do again.”

Learn more about Penn's Kidney Transplant program or request an appointment. 

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