With a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California-Berkeley, Miriam Yarde is studying for law school entrance exams, ready to embrace her lifelong dream. As a child, Miriam observed the power of the attorneys who represented her and her nine siblings in child welfare court proceedings, and set her sights on becoming one of those attorneys herself.
But before she can realize this dream, the 23-year-old needs a kidney transplant to save her life. And you can help.
Despite being placed in nine different foster homes during her childhood in Long Beach, Calif., “and being bounced from one school to the next,” Miriam excelled in high school and earned a spot at Berkeley, her top choice. She graduated last year.
“No one in my family had gone to college before me,” Miriam said. Her parents — both now deceased — immigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica and Trinidad, “so to have that opportunity was just amazing.”
In her sophomore year at Berkeley, Miriam was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, a form of kidney disease. Spreading rapidly, the disease turned into end stage renal failure. With her kidneys no longer functioning, Miriam has since undergone five surgeries, multiple blood transfusions, and numerous other hospital stays, all while managing her undergraduate coursework and now a full-time job as a legal assistant.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Miriam wakes at 5 a.m. so she can get to the dialysis center by 6 a.m. for the four-hour procedure.
“It’s completely exhausting so most people go home and sleep after dialysis,” Miriam said. “But I don’t have that luxury because I have to work. So, I get a coffee and go to work.”
She takes 15 pills every day to regulate her blood pressure, cholesterol and phosphorus, functions that are normally controlled by the kidneys. On the kidney transplant list at the University of California-Davis, for the past three years, Miriam expects and hopes to get the call soon.
Although Miriam’s health insurance will cover the cost of the surgery, she will need several extremely expensive anti-rejection medications to sustain the transplanted kidney. And while she will need these high cost medications for the rest of her life, she has been told that her insurance will only cover them for one year. In addition, she will have to take a three-month unpaid leave from work. Meanwhile, her housing and other living expenses will need to be paid along with the mounting medical costs.
The life-sustaining medications alone will cost approximately $8,800 per month.
“I’m so amazed by Miriam’s strength of character,” said Deborah Lowe Martinez, director of the Hope Scholars academic retention program at UC-Berkeley for students who are currently in foster care, recently emancipated from care or are orphaned. Miriam is an alumnus of the program. “She has never wavered in her positivity and her grace. For people who are in Miriam’s shoes and don’t have the familial resources so many take for granted, it is so important they get the financial support they need to get through it.”
Martinez is one of a core group of friends helping to spread the word about Miriam’s situation through her GoFundMe page. While it has been shared more than 400 times, the total raised so far will not cover even one month of her post-surgery expenses.
Even as she undergoes dialysis 12 hours per week while working full-time, Miriam remains focused on her goal of taking the LSATs in June and enrolling in law school next year.
“I want to advocate for foster youth,” she said, “but also bridge the gap, make it easier on the kids and let them know, ‘This is your current circumstance but you can make it out. This is not permanent.’”
“Donations of any amount will help tremendously,” she added, “to alleviate some of the expenses I will incur after the transplant so I can focus on healing.”