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Etowah woman lobbies on behalf of kidney patients

Rebecca Hooper traveled to Washington this week to lobby for kidney disease treatment and research. Rebecca Hooper traveled to Washington this week to lobby for kidney disease treatment and research.

Although she's never lobbied before, Rebecca Hooper will make a go of it this week on behalf of kidney patients like herself.

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Hooper, 22, was on Facebook when she saw a reference to the American Kidney Fund and its sixth annual Kidney Action Day on Capitol Hill. She went to the foundation's website and filled out an application. It asked her to describe "why I felt it was important to go to Washington" to lobby for change. After a follow-up email and a phone call, the foundation chose her as one of 12 patient-advocates from across the nation to raise awareness of kidney disease on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Hooper, who lives in Etowah with her mother, has suffered from kidney disease since age 11, when an autoimmune disorder caused her body to reject her kidneys. She received a transplant that lasted eight years.
When she began to suffer from severe nausea, she went to Pardee Hospital. Doctors gave her medicine but three days later she returned. After more blood tests, doctors told her "your kidneys are failing and you need to go to Winston-Salem right now." After two weeks of treatment she came home. She has been on daily peritoneal dialysis ever since. A graduate of West Henderson High School, she is a student at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College working towards her associate's degree. She would like one day to be a baker and pastry chef. For now, she said, school and dialysis "pretty much takes all of my energy."
After training in how to present their case on Capitol Hill, the patient-advocates were scheduled to meet with members of Congress. Hooper hoped to meet with U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows and Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C. She is traveling with her mother, Nancy Hooper.
"I'm very grateful for my mom," she said. "She is a big help in my life."
She hopes that the lobbying effort will help kidney disease patients across America. Hooper knows she's luckier than many kidney patients. The family mother receives American Kidney Fund support to help offset the cost of her treatment.
"I think it might improve the way they do dialysis and help get more research to make it less invasive and less time-consuming," she said. "For patients that don't have the money or insurance, it will help them get medical treatment they deserve so they don't have massive bills."