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Teen overcoming disease knows she's not alone

On her 16th birthday, Leah Kaufman woke up with her eyes swollen shut.

A big fan of romance comedy movies, the Santa Rosa High School student initially thought "maybe I cried too much at the romantic comedy last night."

But her body soon began doing other disturbing things. Her legs and feet swelled up and her shoes no longer fit.

She experienced rapid weight gain — 20 pounds in a month — and began having trouble breathing when walking across campus.

Even though she was on the swim team and considered herself "a pretty fit person," she struggled for air during swim meets and "thought I was going to drown."

With each symptom, it became clear something was seriously wrong with her body.

That experience at the end of her sophomore year in 2011 would lead to medical tests, a kidney biopsy and diagnosis of a rare, auto immune kidney disease called Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis.

At first, Leah was devastated.

"I didn't know what to believe in," she said, and asked "Why did God do this? What did I do wrong? Why is the world punishing me?"

But she refused to let the disease get the better of her.


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