Born in Budapest, Hungary, Maria Gerzon
recalls how frightening and confusing it was growing up in a Soviet-bloc country and witnessing thousands of Hungarians fleeing her country during the 1956 revolution. Maria received her college and master's degree in Spanish and German. She then met her intended husband, George Erdi, and they moved to Menlo Park in the Bay Area in December, 1970. She received a second master's degree in Spanish from Stanford in 1975. She worked for a brief time as a translator and as a student teacher at Stanford. Little did she know then what life-threatening challenges were ahead of her.
In 1967, while still living in Hungary, Maria first experienced symptoms of lupus. Early signs included joint pain and a very severe rash that appeared on her chest after she had been in the sun.
She was finally diagnosed with lupus in 1971. From the very beginning, her doctor noticed she had kidney involvement. For the following 26 years she took steroids off and on to control her lupus and her progressing kidney disease. She also took an antimalarial drug.
She has been an active volunteer with the MidPeninsula Lupus Support Group since 1979. For these many years, she has been the group's Treasurer and has frequently called other support group members who needed comfort and reassurance. Maria has also been an active volunteer with other community organizations, and in 1997 while she was overseeing a two-day garden tour for another peninsula charity, she had a sudden heart attack. Subsequent tests revealed there was damage to her heart. After this hospitalization, she learned she also had type II diabetes. She was put on injectable insulin daily and was put on a restricted diet for both her heart and diabetes conditions.
Her kidney problems continued to progress after her heart attack, and in 1998 she was told she needed a kidney transplant and was put on the very long waiting list at the Bay Area Regional Transplant Centers. She had a very close friend who lived in another part of the US who heard about her need for a kidney donor and she said to Maria, "why not me?" As it turned out she had four out of the six genetic markers and met the criteria to be her donor. However, Maria's doctors at UCSF notified them there seemed to be a problem with the donor's current lab tests, and the transplant had to be cancelled. Maria remained on the long list of those who were seeking a donated kidney.
In the summer of 2001, Maria's nephrologist recommended that she begin dialysis. After much thought, she chose to have the insertion of a catheter in her abdomen for peritoneal dialysis, which allowed her to be dialyzed at home. She took training to learn to perform this necessary treatment on herself, which she did twice daily. Later on she experienced nausea and dizziness but with increased dialysis she overcame these side effects. Eventually she learned how to connect herself to a dialysis machine that she used for nine hours overnight.
At long last, on January 25, 2004, Maria received a call from the Stanford Transplant Center that a matching kidney was available. After four hours of surgery, the doctors notified George that the transplant surgery went well and seemed to be a success.
Two weeks later, a biopsy of her donated kidney showed signs of rejection. She had to take two immunosuppressant drugs to stabilize her condition. Subsequently her creatinine test returned to normal, and her new kidney has been functioning very well since that time. She has been told she will be on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life. Maria commented "it was such a relief to remove all the dialysis paraphernalia from our house. We decided to donate the unused, unopened medical supplies to the 'Flying Doctors' so they could put the materials to good use."
Even though Maria stopped taking oral prednisone in 1997, due to her long-term use of steroids to control her lupus and kidney involvement, she developed avascular necrosis in her right hip. Finally, eight months after her successful kidney surgery, her hip replacement was accomplished on October 6, 2004. As of October 22nd, she reports she is doing pretty well and the latest x-rays are good. Maria is still in pain and is doing all the necessary exercises and post-op rehabilitation. "It takes time to heal and strengthen the muscles again," she patiently stated. Patience is one thing she has learned to excel in over the past 33 years.
"Among my dearest friends and supporters were the women of the Mid-Peninsula Lupus Support group, a sub chapter of the Lupus Foundation of Northern California (LFNC)," Maria said.
"I found many unique resources through the LFNC that were valuable to mečvideos from past conferences, numerous medical articles, periodic newsletters, and their website. Many years ago, I attended the all-day education class that provided me with a good understanding of how lupus was affecting my body."
Maria concluded, "I am hopeful that many of those who have also benefited from the services of the LFNC would join me in making a meaningful contribution this holiday season. I would like the LFNC to be there for everyone in the future who will have a need for these wonderful services."