How Healthy U saved my life: Part III

Penni0801Penni Davis is a grant protocol associate who has been at UNMC for 14 years. She is a mother of two and has been married to her husband – “a wonderful man,” Penni says – for almost 30 years.

On July 1, Penni, buoyed by her faith, the prayers of her friends and the good work of her doctors and the other health professionals at The Nebraska Medical Center and UNMC, met with Julie Vose, M.D. With the help of medication and some dietary changes, Penni is feeling better. But the results of her bone marrow biopsy have just come in . . .

July 1, 2013: Dr. Vose didn’t keep me in suspense. It was a good report, finally!!!

There were no issues, other than what is going on with the kidneys. I’m a little anemic, but that’s almost expected. It’s the first good news we’ve had in a while.

July 3, 2013: We’re going on vacation. We already had paid a deposit on a cabin, had made arrangements for someone to watch our dogs and house — we were going to Southern Indiana and enjoy a break. I needed this!

We took our 12-year-old granddaughter with us, and had a great time. What I didn’t know at the time was that my creatinine level from the July 1 labs was 4.05. Dr. Westervelt had talked with us about things to watch out for — passing out from low blood pressure, extreme fatigue (to where I couldn’t get out of bed) and to be sure to drink lots of water and get enough rest. I felt good and had a wonderful time. We went canoeing on Blue River (I paddled a little) and explored the many caves in the area. I came back to work on July 10, my mother’s 89th birthday. Wow!

July 11, 2013: Labs again. More blood and urine. Tomorrow is a big day.

July 12, 2013: I’m having my first “chemo” treatment, going back to the cancer treatment center this afternoon for the five-hour infusion. I’m praying that it does exactly what it is supposed to do and with “no side effects!” Dr. Westervelt will be checking labs weekly for six- to eight-weeks after this treatment and wants to see the creatinine levels go down. Me too!

I checked in, they took vitals. I was hooked up to an IV for two hours of just fluids. This was OK — I just didn’t know when we got there that it was going to be five hours total.

They also gave me some medication for nausea with the second bag of fluids, then the chemo drug and another medication to coat my bladder so it wouldn’t hemorrhage. (Wait! I didn’t know that was a possibility!)

This all took five hours to get into my system, which was pretty boring — lying in a bed just waiting for the bags to empty. While talking with the nurse, I was told that I was receiving a medium-strength dose of the chemo. Also, she had my lab results for the last two times I’d gone to have urine and blood drawn.

As I told you earlier, I found out that day that the creatinine level for July 1 was 4.05 — but the creatinine level for July 11 was 3.28! That was a significant drop and we were high fiving around the room.

The other thing I was told was that Dr. Westervelt had set me up for this treatment every 28 days or so. I told the nurse that I would only need this one — she said “Uh, OK.”

Other than being cold that evening I really had no issues with anything. I have not been sick to my stomach and have had NO SIDE EFFECTS! I’m really doing quite well. Things are getting back to a more normal routine for me and I feel good.

July 17, 2013: More labs (sigh).

July 19, 2013: Appointment with Dr. Westervelt – and what a wonderful appointment!

My creatinine level is (wait for it!) 2.2!!!!

This is extremely good. Dr. Westervelt is very pleased. Sean and I were practically jumping up and down. Things are looking really good. The fear of three to six months for dialysis and transplant has been beaten back to a much later time frame. I will continue to have labs done weekly, and Dr. Westervelt would like to do at least two more chemo treatments.

I’m not happy about the toxic chemicals in my body and my numbers dropping with the Prednisone has been good. So, we’ll watch the numbers for a couple more weeks and then decide on more chemo.

My goal is to have my creatinine level down to 1.5 (the doctors would be happy with in the low 2s), and the blood in the urine to go down even further than it has, which would show that the inflammation in the kidneys is going down. So I have a ways to go. This is not going away, but I’m just trying to feel OK, maintain my kidney function and stave off dialysis and/or transplant for as long as possible.

All I know at this point is I’m so happy and excited to know that I’m getting better and better. The only new thing is a low grade antibiotic to help keep me from developing any infections from the compromised immunity. This has been just an amazing couple of months and it’s only going to get better! Count on it! Thank you, Lord!

Some thoughts today:

Thank you to my co-workers, who have been so supportive and caring. I’ve had offers for a kidney from people I never expected and have been truly humbled by your generosity. I must put in a plug for organ donation here, as people like me must have an organ to live . . . and you can live without one. I work at a great place and thanks to Healthy U, I’m still here.

To say I feel blessed may seem strange — bad doctor’s report, not a great prognosis — but the people in my life who have shown me love and care are my greatest blessings. I’m grateful.

Hang with me as I continue my journey — let’s see where we go next.


  1. Rita Anne Haverman says:

    Amazing story. We are so blessed to have the Medical Center here in Omaha. Your attitude, sense of humor and family support will certainly make this new chapter in your life easier to navigate. My prayers are with you.

  2. Selaba Travis says:

    Penni, thank you so much for sharing your very personal story. We are all blessed for this.

  3. Jayme Nekuda says:

    Thanks for sharing your very powerful story. It isn’t often that I get to hear about the impact from wellness programs that I have helped to put in place for UNMC employees. I am elated that your illness was caught as early as it was. I am pulling for you and wish you the best outcome possible!

  4. Katina Winters says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal story with us. It is always hard to walk down the halls and see some of the very ill patients in our hospital system, but I always know they are in good hands here. Today was even harder to read that one of our very own was now battling kidney disease. I know that you are in good hands and it was wonderful to read that your creatinine levels are getting lower, that is a good sign. Keep those prayers going as will the rest of us, and I look forward to hearing a follow up on your story. One last thing….our campus is very lucky to have someone like Jayme Nekuda who really understands what a positive impact our wellness programs have.

  5. Dr. Sonal Tuljapurkar says:

    What an amazing story! May God give you strength and happiness to continue living healthy!

    Sonal Tuljapurkar

  6. Tom O'Connor says:

    Thanks to Penni for sharing her special story. It’s been one of our best ever read stories in UNMC Today. Obviously, she has many friends who are rooting for her big time — including me!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.