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Annual kidney walk hits home for Hampton Roads resident

By Jordan Crawford | 6/5/2013, 2:59 p.m.
The Annual Hampton Roads Kidney Walk brought together individuals who know the effects of kidney disease and the need for ...
Helen Noel (second from the left) and her brother (on the far right) are shown here with their brother, sister and mom.

Picture this, a gathering of Hampton Road’s most dedicated individuals risking possible discomfort while setting out to raise money for a good cause. Place that against a slightly cloudy sky, and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean and you come up with the 2013 Annual Hampton Roads Kidney Walk.

The Annual Hampton Roads Kidney Walk held May 18, brought together a host of individuals who knew all too well the effects of kidney disease and the great need for organ donors.

Heading south from 24th Street, supporters participated in 1 mile, and 5k walks along the Virginia Beach boardwalk. Adding to the fun was live entertainment, zumba, games for children, face painting, and healthy snacks for the fundraising walkers.

Helen Noel, retired Chief Master Sergeant from the United States Air Force, author of “7 Days in the Fire,” and current resident of Hampton Roads, knows the seriousness of kidney disease, and the importance of organ donation, as she donated one of her kidneys to her brother, Algie Nelson this past April 9.

Nelson, a former member of the United States Marine Corps now at the age of 53, developed kidney failure and was left with 5 percent functionality of his kidneys, thus being put on dialysis in 2010. Along with the deteriorating state of his kidneys, Nelson developed diabetes, and Vitiligo, causing the brown skin on parts of his hands, feet, and face to turn white.

Nelson believes these ailments were caused by his three year assignment to Camp Lejeune, N.C.

While there, Nelson consumed the food and water prepared from the eight water processing stations on the base until he left in 1985. Camp Lejeune was scrutinized for 60 years for using contaminated water.

No stranger to the organ donating process, Noel had previously attempted to donate bone marrow to a complete stranger. She was excited about being a potential donor, but after providing a cotton swab was informed that she was not a match.

Noel began feeling weak in the spring of 2012 and found out she was B12 Deficient in September 2012. She thought she could not donate a kidney due to her deficiency and began taking B12 injections immediately. Once strong again, Noel and her brother underwent testing to determine the compatibility of their blood in the beginning of February 2013— Noel here and her brother in Ohio.

Having already gotten a mammogram, colonoscopy, and thyroid biopsy in September 2012, Noel’s testing results provided a shortcut through the lengthy process.

On February 15, Noel was notified that she was a perfect match with a blood type of O-positive. This meant that she was a universal donor and could donate her kidney to her brother. Noel then flew to Ohio to undergo evaluations and potential surgery at University Hospitals of Cleveland.

Noel recalled being very calm on the day of her transplant. She drew from her faith in the Lord saying, “I am a woman of God, through everything leading up to my surgery, God was truly preparing me.”