LaDonna Lindstedt heard the news during a family gathering.
A cousin was on dialysis every night with two failed kidneys due to a condition called end-stage renal disease.
Upset with the situation, Lindstedt, corporate account manager at the Fuqua School of Business Career Management Center, decided to take matters into her own hands in 2011 and received tests from Duke doctors to see if she'd be a match to donate a kidney. When tests came back positive, Lindstedt reached out to her cousin, Debbie Edenton, visa coordinator in Duke's Department of Surgery.
"It was the best Christmas present ever," said Edenton, 43, who was diagnosed with kidney failure in the fall of 2010. The pair was set to have surgery in December 2011, but one thing stood in the way.
"From the time when we got the test results to the day of surgery, we needed to get healthier and lose some weight," said Lindstedt, 44.
After pushing the surgery to this April, Lindstedt was browsing Duke's Human Resources website and discovered information for the "Get Moving Challenge," Duke's 10-week, team-based health and fitness competition for staff and faculty. Lindstedt signed up, created the team "Fitness4Me&You" and invited Edenton to join. Their team is one of 272 in the challenge.
Edenton lost six pounds in the first month of the program. She needs to lose about 25 pounds before accepting the kidney transplant.
"I knew that by being in a group, we'd all be able to help each other," Edenton said. "I just feel humbled because this whole experience has made me prioritize my life to make it better be exercising more and changing eating habits."
As part of her lifestyle makeover, Edenton is using a Duke Fitness Club discount to the Total Fitness Center in Roxboro, where she exercises with family members up to six times a week. She also attends a Zumba class with her daughter, and Lindstedt occasionally joins. In addition to exercise, Edenton eats more vegetables and keeps portion sizes smaller.
"Instead of using elevators, I'm using stairs," Edenton said. "The first couple times I thought I was going to need oxygen, but I've gotten better at it."
To keep the team's motivation at high levels, Lindstedt is sending special emails to "Fitness4Me&You" members. Last week, she sent a note to members with information about eating habits and updates on the team's ranking.
"You are hopefully meeting your own goals and expectations, however I would challenge you over the last four weeks to take 5 extra steps, be mindful with your fuel (food) and create additional activities to increase calories burned," she wrote.
While Edenton waits for her surgery, she's taking dialysis treatments at home by hooking up her catheter to a machine for nine hours each night. While she sleeps, the machine removes waste and maintains a safe level of chemicals in her blood. She said her doctors haven't been able to pinpoint the cause of her kidney problems, but it doesn't matter to her now that she's able to receive a transplant. Some recipients have to wait on donor lists for up to seven years, Edenton said.
"The support I've had at home, at work and from LaDonna has been awesome," Edenton said. "It's a very eye-opening experience. I can't explain how much it means to me."