Kent State Employee Navigates Health Issues With Support From University’s Wellness Program

Rebecca Urycki details kidney transplant journey on “Becky’s Beans” Facebook page

Imagine being ill for several years. Doctors cannot concretely diagnose the problem despite several tests. Then suddenly, one day after what seems to be hundreds of appointments, an urgent call from the doctor instructs you to go straight to the emergency room.

For Rebecca Urycki, senior secretary in Kent State University’s College of Arts and Sciences’ advising office, this was her story.

During the 20 years of vague diagnoses and no definitive answers, Ms. Urycki made it a point to get routine physical checkups each year, including end of year 2014.

“The week before my physical, I had blood drawn and came to work,” she says. “Within two hours, the doctor called me at work and asked how I was feeling. I said I felt fine. She said I needed to get to the hospital and go straight to the emergency room.”

Her bloodwork revealed that she was in kidney failure – after years of being sick, she was not surprised, she says, but the severity of it was shocking.

“It was really traumatic because they didn’t know what was going on,” she says. “They determined it was most likely kidney related. A couple of weeks later, I had a needle biopsy of my kidney, and they determined I had a disease called FSGS, also known as focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.”

FSGS is scarring of the kidneys, which can be caused by different things, and in most cases, its cause is undetermined. Doctors diagnosed her in stage four of FSGS and immediately placed her on a kidney transplant list.

To document her journey, she created a Facebook page, “Becky’s Beans,” to share her progress and give her peace of mind to share her story with others. The Facebook page sheds a positive light on her journey. She says that a positive attitude is important to maintaining good health. The Facebook page also allowed an opportunity for people she knew to come forward and be tested as living donors.

Of the 18 people who were tested, her husband and sister were both matches. In September 2015, she underwent surgery and received her new kidney from her sister – just nine months after doctors told her she needed a new kidney.

As her journey has progressed, her “Becky’s Beans” Facebook following has grown. She says she feels so uplifted having a support system through social media.

Unfortunately, five weeks following her surgery, she caught a symptomatic virus that attacked – and damaged – her kidney, causing it to go into rejection within the first 18 months.  

The damage caused by the virus drastically changed the outcome of her transplant, essentially putting Ms. Urycki back to square one.

She has remained stable for the past nine months, meaning her labs are unchanged. They are not perfect, but they are not moving either.

University’s Employee Wellness Program Offers Health and Wellness Resources

Ms. Urycki is able to monitor and improve her wellness through the partnership and resources provided by the employee wellness program at Kent State.

“Rebecca was very forthcoming to me about her battle with kidney disease,” says Kim Hauge, director of Kent State’s employee wellness program. “She was willing to share her experience to raise awareness to others and to share what she has learned along the way about kidney disease and the other factors she must be more aware of in order to preserve her health.”

For Ms. Urycki, an individual who constantly put an emphasis on her own health and well-being, wellness partner Be Well Solutions has provided her with resources to maintain and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

“Be Well is the physician-owned company that partners with Kent State to offer a variety of patient care and educational resources to employees,” Ms. Hauge says. “Be Well offers physicians, nurses, dietitians, health educators, diabetes educators, nutrition specialists and more. They are an invaluable wellness partner and resource to our employees.”

“For us to have the wellness programs is incredible – because you might not have the discipline or have an understanding of all the things you need to be doing," Ms. Urycki says. "And then to have someone guide you through it, I think it is really great that the university offers that.”

“Rebecca’s journey also stresses the importance of the individuality honored in the programming and that for each and every one of us, wellness is a journey, a very personal journey,” Ms. Hauge says. “Whether you are dealing with a chronic disease, mental health issue or financial challenges, there are people and resources here to support you before, during and throughout [the situation]. This is how we build and convey our culture of wellness.”

Taking advantage of the employee wellness programs affirms that she is part of a supportive community and doing what is best for her overall health.

Although her transplant was successful and she has overcome contracting a horrific virus, she is still chronically ill, which is a hard pill for her to swallow.

“Adjusting my lifestyle both at home and at work, I’ve had to ask for accommodations based on my disease, which puts me in the category of being disabled,” Ms. Urycki says. “I was not a disabled person before, but now I am in a whole different category.”

Kent State Community Offers Support System

Ms. Urycki was out of work for six months due to complications from the virus. With the support of the Kent State community, she was able to take ample time off work due to various employees donating leave to her as part of the university’s leave donation policy. Although she is unaware of who donated their leave, due to privacy issues, she says it was incredible and a humbling experience for her.

It has been almost three years since Ms. Urycki’s life-changing procedure. Never having expected to endure such a traumatic experience – especially without warning signs – she has become more aware of her own body and encourages others to be aware of their own bodies as well.

From being a physically strong person who was capable of doing things for herself to now having a chronic illness, Ms. Urycki remains optimistic throughout her ongoing journey.

“I never expected my life to go this way, but who does?” she says. “You don’t expect anything like this to happen to you. You think you’re invincible. I’m optimistic that things are going to go well, but it’s not going to be without struggle because it’s a struggle every day.”

To learn more about Ms. Urycki’s kidney transplant journey, visit her Facebook Page, Becky’s Beans.

Learn more about Kent State’s Employee Wellness Program

POSTED: Thursday, June 14, 2018 - 1:53pm
UPDATED: Friday, June 22, 2018 - 9:14am
WRITTEN BY:
Emily Fulmer