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Lori Hartwell  

Author, Advocate, Founder of The Renal Support Network & Chronic Kidney Disease Survivor

When doctors put two-year-old Lori Hartwell on dialysis after her kidneys mysteriously stopped working, they didn’t expect her to live. That was the first time she beat seemingly insurmountable odds to survive, and she continues to “one-up” the statistics today. As a young patient, Hartwell encountered the pioneering stages of renal replacement therapy. She was the youngest person in the state of California ever to be placed on peritoneal dialysis. She was on dialysis for almost 13 years (both peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis) and has had four kidney transplants―the last of which took place on February 4, 2011. Hartwell has emerged as a powerful example of how people with chronic illness can lead complete and productive lives.

The insightful, often humorous, and touching story of how Hartwell chose to live life rather than succumb to its obstacles is laid out in her book, "Chronically Happy – Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness," which chronicles her approach of taking simple, logical steps in order to realize one’s dreams. "Chronically Happy," published in 2002, is the first book written by a kidney patient ever to reach national distribution selling over 25,000 copies.

Hartwell realized one of her most ambitious dreams to date when, in 1993, she founded the Renal Support Network (RSN) to instill “health, happiness, and hope” into the lives of those affected by chronic kidney disease (CKD). The influence of this patient-led organization ― which started out as a Southern California grassroots effort ― now extends across America. RSN’s mission is to identify and meet the non-medical needs of people affected by CKD, whether they are in the early stages of the disease, on dialysis, or with a kidney transplant.

Hartwell began her career in the renal field as a technical sales specialist for HemaMetrics (formerly In-Line Diagnostics), developers of a hematocrit-controlled hemodialysis technology. She then accepted the position of Western Regional Sales Manager for Medcomp, distributors of vascular access catheters, where she oversaw company activities in seven states. This broad-based first-hand knowledge of patients and kidney disease led naturally to publishing, where Hartwell became editor of the medical journal Contemporary Dialysis & Nephrology and of the lay journal For Patients Only. She was the content publisher of the popular website iKidney.com, which served the entire renal community. Combining this experience with her knowledge of renal disease from both the patient and industry perspectives, Hartwell established Hartwell Communications in 2000, for which she consults on and creates patient-related educational materials.

She wrote and produced “Communication Prescription for the Renal Care Professional,” a 60-minute video that shares practical advice, creative communication concepts, and stories of hope from people who live with kidney disease as well as from veteran renal care professionals. This video, which won a 2001 Aegis Award for its production quality, illustrates the positive impact that renal care professionals can have on people’s lives. Hartwell continues to travel the world giving motivational and educational presentations to renal healthcare professionals, patients, and industry representatives, both at national nephrology conferences and at the regional level.

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