In 1996, Rhonda and Rob stood in front of family and friends and vowed to love each other for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. The newlyweds were optimistic about the future, never believing the worst would happen to them. Shortly after their honeymoon, Rob and Rhonda were undergoing routine physicals to open a life insurance policy. Their appointments were cut short when the nurse stopped testing, and told the couple Rob needed to be taken to the hospital immediately. Shocked and scared, Rhonda drove Rob to the hospital, where they learned he had dangerously high blood sugar levels and he was diagnosed with diabetes.
"Diabetes ran in his family, but he was a big, active guy, who never suspected he was sick," says Rhonda. Rhonda supported Rob as he made all the changes doctors told him to, including changing his diet, losing weight and taking preventative medications. The disease appeared to be manageable, and the couple began a family with daughter Maiya and talked of having more children. Unfortunately, the disease was relentless. Rob was forced to begin dialysis for his increasing kidney trouble and eventually, he entered end-stage renal failure and was placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Doctors warned Rhonda and Rob that the wait for a kidney transplant could be long – up to five years. While waiting for a transplant, doctors increased Rob's dialysis treatments to three days a week.
"It's wonderful that dialysis exists to help support kidney function until people can get transplants, but it is no way to live," says Rhonda. "Once an involved, loving father, he became a passive parent – too sick or too tired to enjoy school programs and activities with his daughter. Our hopes for a larger family were put on hold."
Despite his deteriorating health, Rob's hope for a transplant never faltered. Even in his final days, he told Rhonda he was sure his health would turn around and a kidney would become available. Sadly, in February 2012, Rob passed away waiting for a kidney, just days before his 39th birthday. Rhonda and her daughter were devastated, but like the vow she made to Rob to love him until the end, she now vowed to become an advocate on behalf of donation, in his honor.