This past fall, Christopher Lopez started his junior year of high school at Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy (IHSCA) in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Just like other kids his age, he experienced the same back-to-school jitters yet looked forward to seeing his friends and getting back to nursing club. The healthcare profession is something Christopher is passionate about and the reason he chose IHSCA – a school that focuses on the health sciences. The Leadership, Education and Development (LEAD) Nursing club, led by volunteer mentor nurses from area hospitals, helps increase his exposure to the responsibilities of nurses, including drawing blood and taking blood pressure.
Christopher is a unique 17-year-old in that he is laser focused on his future profession of nephrology nursing to care for kidney patients. Fueling his passion and professional determination is his own experience as a patient with end-stage renal disease.
At age 8, Christopher was diagnosed with a chronic disease that causes scarring of his kidneys. His kidney function eventually declined to the point where he needed to start peritoneal dialysis (PD) to manage his condition.
“Being as young as I was when diagnosed, I thought I had the flu and my condition would go away,” Christopher said. “But eventually, PD became a part of my daily routine.”
PD therapy works by cleaning the blood of toxins and removing extra fluids using one of the body’s own membranes, the peritoneal membrane, as the filter. Christopher does PD therapy at home, while he sleeps. Given his age when therapy was started, Christopher’s mother initially administered his therapy, eventually transitioning the responsibility to her son as he grew older.
Christopher has had two kidney transplants. Unfortunately, both of the transplants failed and he is again included on the National Kidney Registry.
I’m more mature than most other kids in my class and I think some of that does have to do with my health.
Christopher Lopez, PD Patient
“Spending so much time in hospitals has inspired my career choice and determination to become a nephrology nurse,” Christopher said. “I definitely have favorite healthcare providers, including the nurses who tried to make my hospital stays more comfortable – even going as far as making my room look like the summer camp I was missing.”
“I’ve had to be more mature than most kids my age, but still enjoy hanging out with friends and participating in typical teenage activities,” said Christopher.
Christopher’s goal is to continue feeling well, so he can take one day at a time as he prepares for a future of helping others.
“Right now my focus is studying for the ACT, so I can get into a good college like Purdue where I can study nursing,” said Christopher.