Meet Selina Hodge of Ke'Niya Speaks Foundation, Inc.
In 2006, at the age of 24, I was diagnosed with Kidney Failure. I had to start dialysis immediately in the summer of 2008 because my kidney functions rapidly decreased. Being on dialysis at such a young age was no joke. I remember, at one point, all my hair fell out. I suffered a seizure and a stroke. I battled with potassium, protein and low iron issues over the years. My skin was dark and bumpy. I was tiny as a toothpick. I was doing dialysis at home peritoneal dialysis. I was trained on how to connect and disconnect myself from the machine every day. I had to do dialysis for nine hours, every single night, for over three years.
In 2011, I was at my mother’s house, searching craigslist for furniture for my new apartment. My mother made a comment (that I thought was silly at that time) to post on craigslist for my need for a kidney transplant. I had to think about it for a while and I knew the only way to get my mother off my back about it was to post the ad. Within 24 hours of posting on craigslist, I received an email from a local news station. I was skeptical at first, but I decided to reply back when I was able to confirm that the information within the reporter’s signature was legit. Next thing I knew, the news station was in my living room, filming my story about my need for a kidney transplant. People from all over the world sent me emails wanting to donate and/or telling me their health stories as well. I was doing countless interviews, even filming for a show that aired on Oprah Winfrey’s Network, called “Lost and Found” That is when I knew that this was more than just me needing to be saved. I had to be a voice for others as well. I would continue the fight long after I received a new kidney.
Within numerous emails that I received, which happened to be close to a thousand, a young lady by the name of Stephanie Grant reached out to me and for some reason, her email really stood out to me. It was like I could feel her good spirit as I was reading her email. I invited her to do a news interview with me, not knowing she would be the one to donate to me. Five months later, on December 13, 2011 I received the gift of life. Stephanie Grant donated her kidney to me, a complete stranger at that time, and gave me a second chance at life. I have been dialysis free since then and I thank God for her! She is an amazing person! We keep in touch a lot. After our transplant surgery, she moved back to her home town in Springfield, IL. We take turns visiting each other almost every year.
A few years later, after my kidney transplant, I found out that I was pregnant. All of those years went by and I was always told that I would never be able to have kids. Well, they were proven wrong! I gave birth to my very first child, Ke’ Niya, my preemie princess on October 6, 2017. She was born at 25 weeks and four days old. I was suddenly diagnosed with HELLP and had to have an emergency c – section. It was all new to me, but I was just so happy to be a mother at the age of 34 (2 months before I turned 35).
The NICU was a whole other world for my family and I. Just when I thought I had been through it myself and knew everything medically, my daughter had common preemie issues. My baby girl was a fighter. She went from weighing 1 pound 7 oz to 6 pounds within four months of being in the NICU. She was everything to us! Both my parents were finally grandparents and my sister/my only sibling, finally an aunt. Ke’ Niya was born on my sister’s birthday.
Unfortunately, our lives changed forever in the blink of an eye. Just two days before our Ke’ Niya was due to be discharged and come home to us, tragedy struck and she passed away in the NICU. My life has never been the same since. I had plans for Ke’ Niya, we all did!
A lot of my life’s obstacles have never been a smooth road. Being diagnosed with kidney failure, becoming bald, having a seizure and a stroke, struggling to gain weight, staying alive, being on dialysis for over three years and having my first child to losing my princess within four months.
Being a grieving parent changes you forever. I have always felt like you are not supposed to bury your child; your child should bury you. I knew I had to do something to keep her memory alive.
Ke’ Niya is why I started my non-profit organization “Ke’ Niya Speaks Foundation, Inc.” She speaks through me. I live because of her. I want to help educate as many parents as possible and spread awareness. I was not aware of HELLP or preemies but I quickly learned. My team and I will be a support system for grieving parents who lost their child as well as parents who have a preemie child, in and outside of the NICU. My motto is “Love on your babies” I wish I knew that February 7, 2018 would be the last time I got to hug and kiss and love on my Princess Ke’ Niya.
The other part of the foundation will also consist of being a support system for people who have dealt with kidney failure. You have no idea about a situation until you go through it yourself. I live by “You never know how strong you are until being strong becomes your only option”
I define success by accomplishing life’s goals, no matter how big or small. Being able to fulfill my purpose on earth and learning to be at peace. I am now realizing the “why” is important in my life. I have learned to turn my pain into purpose and that alone, is my success in life!