May 24, 2016, was the best day of Macie Coates' life. That's the day the Manchester resident got the call that let her know she was getting a new kidney.
"In that moment, I couldn't cry or anything," Coates said. "I was just filled with so much joy I can't even explain it."
Coates, now 24, was born with kidney disease, but was lucky enough that symptoms and complications did not arise until she was an adolescent. It was in May 2015, however, during a routine checkup, that Coates' doctor told her she needed emergency dialysis.
"I was actually kind of devastated when he first told me. I was shocked," she said. "I did blood work the week before and everything was fine."
Kidney disease affects 26 million people in the U.S., according to Patti Dash, vice president of mission advancement with the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, "But most don't know it. Nine out of 10 people don't know it. " The foundation offers free community screenings for kidney disease for just this reason.
"The National Kidney Foundation raises awareness for the treatment and prevention of kidney disease and we help patients like Macie to find the resources they need," Dash said. "Our foundation has a program called the Patient Emergency Assistance fund. We provide financial assistance for patients for life-saving medication, or for transportation to dialysis."
Even while doing dialysis and walking for kidney health, Coates was also researching kidney transplants and got herself placed on the list for one. On May 22, 2016, she said, she went to church and was called up front by the pastor.
"He asked, 'What do you need from the Lord?' I responded, 'I need the Lord to send me a kidney!' He says, 'That's easy,' and starts snapping his fingers," Coates said. "My mind was just racing, saying, 'How is that easy?'"
And then came the call on May 24. Coates and her boyfriend had just ordered pizza and were not expecting a call, and she had gotten out of the hospital just a few days before. There was a moment of anxiety, Coates said, when the nurse asked her whether she had recently been on antibiotics or in the hospital.
"She was like, 'Let me check with the doctor just to make sure.' I was just sitting there thinking, 'This can't be,'" Coates said. "I can't get this phone call and then they tell me 'no.'"
When she got the OK, "it was definitely surreal."
Today, Coates is off dialysis and her life is going well, but she stays involved: On Sunday, April 30 she and her team, Team Macie, will be walking in the 2017 Greater Baltimore Kidney Walk. They are still accepting donations or offers to walk with them by visiting www.kidneywalk.org and searching for Team Macie.
In fact, anyone and everyone is invited to the walk, Dash said.
"The event is free, but if they donate $100 they get an event T-shirt," she said. "They can go to www.kidneywalk.org and register and donate, or they can just come out on Sunday. Check-in is at 9 a.m. and the walk kicks off at 10 a.m."
The hip-hop artist Freeway, who has kidney disease, will also be on hand as celebrity ambassador, according to Dash.
For Coates, she does her best to spread the word about kidney health, asking people to get tested for kidney disease, especially if they have a family history or Type 2 diabetes, two major risk factors.
And given that April is National Donate Life Month, and that she owes her life to someone who graciously donated an organ, Coates talks to those who will listen about that, too.