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Laura Lewis, a 2000 graduate of Lebanon High School, is in need of kidney and pancreas transplants.

When Laura Lewis was three years old, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. 

She has managed the condition as well as she could and is extremely grateful that she was able to give birth to two health children - Jasmine, 13, and Kolton, 3). She and her husband, Kasey Lewis, are parents of a blended family which also includes their oldest daughter Hailey, 18.

Last fall, Lewis' condition began to deteriorate. She felt pain, fatigue and other symptoms and sought advice from her physician.

Right around Thanksgiving, Lewis received a diagnosis: Stage 5 kidney failure. This is a common end result for those with Type I diabetes.

Lewis was placed on dialysis and is thankful that modern technology allows her to do this at home.

"It's basically a hospital room in my home," Lewis said.

Kolton found the dialysis machine frightening, so the family gave it a name:  Herman. Lewis undergoes 10 hours of dialysis each night. Herman keeps her alive, but the need to undergo dialysis each night limits her work and personal life.

Lewis has worked for Winco in the past and has served as a classified substitute for the Lebanon Community Schools. She is hopeful that her health will allow her to work as a substitute when school resumes this fall.

But dialysis is a temporary solution. Lewis requires kidney and pancreas transplants and is in the process of becoming a transplant candidate at Oregon Health Sciences University. She will travel to Portland in late July for a two-day evaluation.

She will then learn if she has been accepted or if there are other items she needs to resolve. One area that is reviewed is financial readiness.

"They will reject you for financial reasons," Lewis said. "It's complicated and expensive."

Lewis lost her insurance when a previous job ended, but her insurance has been restored thanks to assistance from the American Kidney Fund. That organization is helping the family make her insurance premiums.

But insurance does not cover the entire cost, and family and friends are actively working to raise funds. A series of garage sales have been held and one more is currently planned. It will be held July 13-15 at 880 Sugarberry Lane in Lebanon. 

The family has also set up a Go Fund Me account and a Facebook fundraising page.

Once all the criteria are met, Lewis will join the waiting list. She could get a call within the first week ot it could take three years. Lewis knows that the procedure which will ultimately prolong her life is only possible because someone else loses their life.

"That's why being a donor is so important," Lewis said.

Family and friends are encouraging everyone who donates to the cause to make sure they are signed up to be organ donors.  Signing up is not difficult, and can be completed at the Department of Motor Vehicles or online. In Oregon, individuals must be at least 15 years of age to register as an organ donor.

Once the transplants are completed, Lewis will be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life. That is a small price to pay for a second chance at life.

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