Affinity Strategies

National Kidney Month: The Unexpected Path to Passion

Sarah White
March 24, 2022

Recently, I was on a call with the board president of one of our clients. Our clients are medical associations, so this individual is at the forefront of his specialty and very accomplished in his career. I was explaining to him that as COO of Affinity Strategies, I would be handling that day’s call since our owner and CEO, Liz Schumacher, was not feeling well.

I went on to explain that her nausea and fatigue were the result of her kidney failure, and that it was often hard to predict how she would feel from one day to the next. He asked some follow up questions and he was impressed by my overall knowledge of her condition and some of the specifics of kidney disease and failure. His specialty is not nephrology, so he was learning some things from me, especially from the perspective of supporting someone living with this condition. I only half joked that I live in a world surrounded by kidney disease.

You see, Liz Schumacher is not only the owner of our company but a good friend of mine, and she is in the process of coordinating her fourth kidney transplant. In addition, my 74-year-old father is in end-stage renal failure and relies on dialysis five days a week to survive.

As such, I cannot help but be well versed in the needs, challenges, and fears that a person in kidney failure experiences each day. I’ve learned that the kidneys and their proper function literally keep every other system in the body in check. When they are not working, they can cause issues literally from head to toe—from brain fog to the inability to maintain body temperature, hence cold toes. And often, the remedy to help one symptom is sure to cause another symptom to worsen. It often seems to me like an unsolvable puzzle.

As the primary caretaker for my father, this is so frustrating at times. I find that it is a gift that I have Liz in my life as she has been a kidney patient for decades and she often coaches me on the questions to ask of his doctors and suggests small ways that I can provide comfort to him.

Years ago, I chose to go into accounting as my profession.  I’ve never regretted it and I’ve always had success in my career, but I always had the feeling that there might be something more that I could be doing. I was jealous of the people who had discovered their passion for music, medicine, sports, etc. 

Then, about four years ago, I met Liz as a potential bookkeeping client. Her business was growing and the nature of the accounting work she needed was in my niche. I started working on her clients like I would any other client I’ve ever had, but then something changed. I got to know the leadership of these specialty medical associations, and I began to appreciate the impact that they were having on their profession and the medical field in general.

It made me want to up my game. I started reading about the areas that they were passionate about so that I could converse with them on topics other than balance sheets and check approvals. What I found was that their passion was contagious, and I wanted to support them and Affinity Strategies in any way that I could.

This desire became laser focused when the Covid-19 pandemic emerged. I now had Liz, who was immunocompromised, that I wanted to support in any way. I had clients on the front lines that were working hours and seeing things that were unimaginable, and finally, I was trying to keep my dad, with his myriad of co-morbidities, safe.

In what began to feel like a recurring theme, I felt like I was living in an unsolvable puzzle.  I became committed to doing whatever I could to support the needs of our company and our clients. Every day was different, and as my role at Affinity continued to grow, I took each challenge and task to be a new learning opportunity.

Fast forward to now as we learn to live with the new normal that has resulted from the pandemic. Liz is getting closer to her transplant date, my dad is alive and stable and our clients are emerging from the challenges of the last two years. They are looking forward to getting back to the work of advancing their specialties and applying lessons learned from this pandemic to healthcare in general. And I am lucky enough to be right in the center of all of this. I have found my passion.