By KARISSA WANG
“Here at NUAMES, we are a family” is one of the lines the Northern Utah Academy of Math, Engineering & Science uses to draw kids in.
As current students, we still hear the line during the opening talk at almost every assembly. I can’t deny that the small NUAMES population is pretty close. It is so much easier to have a personal relationship with every student when there are only a few hundred in your grade.
The size of our entire high school is less than the number of kids in the senior class of other high schools. Still, it never really sunk in how true the “family” statement is until someone really needs help. This year, one of our fellow students, whom I have classes with, ran into some trouble.
Meet John Means, NUAMES junior. A gamer, music fanatic and peer-proclaimed genius. As that description shows, John fits right in at NUAMES. A few months ago, John’s mother, Molly Means, noticed his legs were swollen after he woke up. They went to the doctor, who diagnosed him with total kidney failure. Curiously, they had no idea what had caused it.
Since then, John has been on dialysis, a process that removes waste from the blood when the kidneys can’t do their job. He has also been visiting the University of Utah hospital on a regular basis.
Balancing those trips with school work would be hard for any student, but John has handled it extremely well. As a NUAMES student, he is eligible to take classes from Weber State University, an opportunity he has taken advantage of. Luckily, the way he planned out his college schedule left some gaps in his schedule. He uses this time to care for his kidneys by getting dialysis.
“After hemodialysis, you’re really, really tired. You’re so drained, it’s terrible,” John said.
The NUAMES junior recently switched to a different method of dialysis called peritoneal, in which they put fluid in a body cavity which flushes the body.
Through his hard work as a full-time Weber State and NUAMES student, John has even maintained good grades, keeping him on the honor roll. His family has been making amazing efforts to help him, including emotional support and even a kidney donation from his older sister, Emily, a University of Utah student who just turned 22.
It will be a wait of 6 to 12 months before doing the kidney transplant because the hospital wants to make sure John’s body is well enough to take care of the new one.
“I’ve done my best to take it in stride,” John said. “I do what I’ve got to do.”
However, the cost of dialysis and the kidney operation have been estimated to reach $100,000. This puts a financial burden on the family. The Means family has started a Go Fund account to help raise money for the cause, and when NUAMES heard, they immediately started thinking of ways to help. Specifically, John’s fellow students did.
Interact, a student service organization at NUAMES, came up with a variety of different ideas to help raise awareness and funds to support the Means family. The Interact officers have made posters to get the word out and hung them in every classroom. They have made a video to promote the cause, which they have labeled #JMKidneyFund and #ROCKonJOHN.
“Interact wants to help our community. We want to connect with the people of the community and help where we can,” said Myla Anderson, one of the officers heading the event.
On Dec. 12, the students held an event to wrap Christmas or other winter holiday presents for community members in exchange for a small donation. All proceeds will be given to the Means family. Interact is also selling NUAMES hoodies, which go toward John’s cause. To get students involved, the Interact club has started a series of dollar wars, in which the sophomores, juniors and seniors see who can raise the most money. The winning class will be eligible to win prizes such as gift baskets and gift cards.
“Everyone’s support means a lot to me. It’s helped,” John said.
Together, the NUAMES family has been trying to raise $7,000 by Dec. 19 but the Means family will still be taking outside donations. To find out more or donate, visit www.gofundme.com/anewkidneyforjohn.
Karissa Wang is a junior at NUAMES. She enjoys swimming, art and spending time with her little sister. Email her at email@example.com.