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Minnesota woman who's had 4 kidney transplants shares story to inspire others

Minnesota woman has had 4 kidney transplants in 20 years
Minnesota woman has had 4 kidney transplants in 20 years 02:01

MINNEAPOLIS — Thursday is World Kidney Day, a day to create awareness about the importance of healthy kidneys.

One Minnesota woman living with kidney disease has had four transplants in 20 years. Her story is an inspiration for anyone dealing with illness.

Jennifer Cramer-Miller, board chair of the National Kidney Foundation Minnesota, spends her time supporting kidney patients and sharing her story.  


"I was a college graduate, I was happy and healthy and ready to launch," Cramer-Miller said.

Six months later she was in kidney failure.

"A biopsy showed I have a very stubborn, aggressive autoimmune kidney disease that is incurable. It's got a mouthful of a name, focal segmental glomerular sclerosis, but FSGS for short," she said.

READ MORE: 6-year-old receives life-saving kidney donation thanks to preschool teacher, voucher program

Cramer-Miller was forced on dialysis and moved back to Minneapolis to be with family while she waited for a transplant.

A year-and-a-half later, one family's loss was her blessing.

"I was 25 then and it's such an intersection of grief and gratitude. And I just really felt like, I don't know how long this kidney is going to last but I owe it to this donor family to make my life the best that I can," Cramer-Miller said.

Jennifer started working full time and met and married the man of her dreams.

That kidney lasted 5 years. Then another another gift of time, memories and life.

"That gift of life allowed me to create life. I got pregnant, I have a daughter, she is in her 20s and she is here because of that gift," Cramer-Miller said.

READ MORE: Twin Cities dads meet after life-saving kidney transplant: "You're family to me"

Two more transplants: one from her mother, the other from her husband. That's four in more than 20 years.

Her book "Incurable Optimist: Living with Illness and Chronic Hope" takes you on her journey.

"I feel like if I've been through four and have had a good life and keep just moving forward that maybe it can be an example that other people who are going through kidney failure now or having that first transplant that, I'm not going to say it's easy, it's hard, but we can do it," she said.

Cramer-Miller wants people to pay more attention to their kidney health. More than 37 million Americans have kidney disease, and about 90% of them don't even know it.

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