The Brown-Forman Kidney Walk takes place at Waterfront Park this Sunday, September 30, but for Rob and Karen Waddell and their four kids, Sunday’s event means more than a walk in the park.
At the age of 11, Rob Waddell and his siblings were tested for kidney disease due to their mother’s battle with the disease and the resulting renal dialysis and two kidney transplants. Rob’s test results were positive, but due to the slow progression of kidney disease he was granted a healthy youth. Rob remembers testing his blood pressure in a Biology class during college to learn that it was 165/100. Years later, in his mid-twenties, he attended a corporate health fair and once again tested positive for high blood pressure. Rob decided to retest for kidney disease, only to reaffirm the grim results.
Over a decade later, Rob went into renal failure at the age of 38, while Karen was pregnant. Karen shared the news with their neighbor, Kim Hayden, who later shared the story with her husband, Hugh. Four years later, Rob began to prep for dialysis. Rob’s niece was willing to donate her kidney, but when the call was made to add her name to Rob’s donor list, someone else was already in line. Rob knew it was Hugh who had volunteered, and who would ultimately donate the gift of life.
Rob and Hugh endured the surgeries in Chicago, where Rob was based for eight weeks during the process. The transfer was a success, though Rob suffered great pain and discomfort during recovery. With the love and support of his wife and family, he slowly adjusted to the addition of the new organ and eventually re-emerged with new life and energy.
Today, Rob works as Global Treasury Manager at Brown-Forman Corporation, where he has been employed for 13 years. When the company decided to sponsor this year’s walk, it was only fitting that Rob be a spokesman for the event. Though Rob and Karen have been participating in the Kidney Walk for five years, Sunday’s walk marks their first year as chairpersons. The Waddell family has devoted countless hours and great effort promoting the cause through a kick-off party and many other fundraisers, including the Gift of Life Gala. In addition, Karen and her children make and sell bracelets made of mostly green and orange beads (green stands for organ donor, and orange stands for kidney disease.) Karen sells the bracelets for $5 each at the walk and at local businesses around town to benefit the Kidney Foundation.
According to April Enix, Development Director at the Kidney Foundation of Louisville, kidney disease affects 26 million Americans, and 1.5 million in the Kentucky/Ohio region alone. To raise awareness and support early detection through education and health screenings, the National Kidney Foundation hosts Kidney Walks around the country. Louisville’s event is expected to attract over 1,100 participants with the goal of raising $125,000.
With only days to go before the walk, Rob and Karen have raised $1,935 between two teams – Rob’s consisting of corporate contributors and Karen’s being friends and family (also known as “The Kidney Beans.”) Visit Rob’s personal page or Karen’s personal page to read more, or make a donation.
Registration for the Brown- Forman Kidney Walk is still available. Check-in begins at Waterfront Park at 1:00 p.m. and the walk will start at 2:00 p.m.
For more information on the Louisville Kidney Walk, visit the www.kidneywalk.org.
Photo: Couresty of Rob and Karen Waddell (from left: Kim Hayden, Hugh Hayden, Karen Waddell, Rob Waddell)