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Robert Whitley

48 years old - Lenoir, North Carolina - Featured on March 17, 2010

Kidney Failure Leads Patient to Pursue Higher Education

Fresenius Medical Care Lenoir dialysis patient Robert Whitley shows students how to make balloon animals and juggle for a school fundraiser.

Robert Whitley attributes his success to his kidney failure. Over 15 years ago, Whitley, now 48, was diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, or kidney damage caused by a severe case of strep throat. This led to kidney failure which required him to start in-center dialysis treatment. Robert had to quit his job at a local factory in order to focus on his healthcare, and he then decided to pursue his passion, education.

Since beginning dialysis, Robert, with the help of the Jack Kent Cook Foundation, has earned an associate's degree, bachelor's degree and master's degree from surrounding colleges in North Carolina. He currently works at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute as a history teacher, and also as a staff member in a government sponsored program called TRIO Student Support Services (SSS), aiding first generation college students with managing schedules and course work, and providing the support needed to keep students in school. Robert also works with the Education Talent Search (ETS) program, a sister program to TRIO SSS, to help prepare high school students for college. Robert's relentless determination to pursue his dreams and help students pursue their own aspirations inspires his dialysis patient peers at his facility, Fresenius Medical Care Lenoir.

“Going on dialysis made me think about what I wanted to do with my life, what motivates me and interests me,” said Robert. “I think it’s important to keep a positive attitude when on dialysis, and realize that treatment is not the end of a productive life – it can be the beginning.”

Robert, who is hoping to pursue his Ph.D. one day, says the support he receives from his wife, Joyce, and their two sons, Jeremy and Tim, has also helped him to pursue his education and to enjoy every moment of his life. Robert hopes to inspire other patients to do the same.