Although she is facing a life-threatening health disorder, Madee Leombruno considers herself blessed.
Mrs. Leombruno, 40, was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy in 2006 after a routine doctor's checkup. The disorder affects how her kidney functions and its ability to get rid of harmful antibodies.
She needs a kidney transplant to save her life.
"You know, I never felt any pain at all," said Mrs. Leombruno, a Sewickley native and former physical therapist's aide. "My doctor referred me to a nephrologist, and I was told that there was a very high level of creatinine in my kidneys. I was in shock."
Creatinine is a substance that is filtered out of the body via the kidney. If it is not, kidney damage can occur.
For a long time, Mrs. Leombruno has taken a large cocktail of drugs geared to bringing the creatinine level in her kidneys down. When that did not work, she began costly dialysis procedures in January.
In the fall, her husband, Tony, of Bethel Park, lost his job. He has since found work as an engineer outside Tampa, Fla., where they both now live.
On Sept. 7, she will be back in the area for a kidney transplant at Allegheny General Hospital. Her sister-in-law, Deidre, 35, will donate a kidney, and other family members are doing whatever it takes to raise the money needed for the surgery.
"I can't tell you how overwhelmed I am with all this help," Mrs. Leombruno said from her home in Brandon, Fla. "I want to say 'thank you,' but I feel that it is not enough."
The first fundraiser this summer will be a carwash Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. at Hillcrest Christian Academy at 2500 Bethel Church Road in Bethel Park. No price has been set but donations are welcome.
Other fundraisers are scheduled throughout the summer, Mrs. Leombruno said.
"I just feel so much love from everyone involved," she said.
A kidney transplant can cost up to $250,000, according to Mandy Scherer, director of public relations for the National Foundation for Transplants. Costs of post-transplant medications, which are critical to the patient's survival, can range from $2,000 to $5,000 per month.
Mrs. Leombruno looks forward to having a normal life again.
"Having to go to dialysis three days a week kind of prevents me from having a full-time job," she said. "I cannot wait to be able to work and volunteer again."
Those who would like to make a donation to Mrs. Leombruno's cause can mail a tax-deductible gift to the NFT Florida Kidney Fund, 5350 Poplar Ave., Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Write "in honor of Madee Leombruno" in the memo line of the check. Donations also can be made online at www.transplants.org. Click on "Patients We Help" to direct a contribution to Mrs. Leombruno.
For more information, contact Mrs. Leombruno's mother-in-law, Anita Leombruno, at 412-758-9148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Whipkey, freelance writer: email@example.com .