They say joy is greater than happiness because it goes beyond temporary circumstances: Happiness is an emotional reaction, while joy is an attitude of the heart. For 29-year-old Joy Araujo, that distinction is exceedingly important, and not just because of her fitting name. Araujo’s life is a testament to what can be accomplished when one doesn’t let their circumstances diminish their potential.
Araujo is a successful nonprofit owner and a beauty pageant queen, but for years she spent 11 hours of each day in the hospital, undergoing dialysis. The trouble started at the age of 10 when, with no prior symptoms or warnings, she woke up and discovered that her eyes were swollen shut. Soon after, she was diagnosed with kidney disease. After trying various medications and undergoing chemotherapy, she started dialysis at the age of 16.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, African-Americans are almost four times more likely than whites to develop kidney failure. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney failure among African-Americans.
“There were definitely times when I felt really depressed, especially as a child. I didn’t really understand what was going on with my body, and I was really scared. I was thinking, ‘Am I going to actually survive this?’” said Araujo.
At the age of 17, Araujo was given a donor kidney, but slowly, over the course of eight years, her body rejected it. Eventually, she had to start treatment again.
Joy Araujo started a nonprofit called the Donor Appreciation Network that sends thank you packages to living kidney donors.
Despite undergoing dialysis for 11 hours a day for years, Araujo attended college, earned the title of Miss Indiana International, and started a nonprofit called the Donor Appreciation Network that sends thank you packages to living kidney donors. She credits meticulous planning for being able to accomplish so much.
“I would schedule my time down to the minute every day, and I did 11 hours of dialysis at night. I did school part-time, then I rested up and did homework. I was like, this happens at 9:05, this happens at 9:10, I just did what I had to do,” explained Araujo.
This past July, Araujo completed her final dialysis treatment. The following day, she received a second donor kidney and has been doing well since. She is currently an Anderson University student working toward a degree in biblical studies. She hopes to someday be involved in youth ministry.
Araujo has advice for individuals who are struggling to find joy in the midst of trying circumstances.
“I have been very sick before. There were times when they couldn’t even do dialysis on me and sent me home, saying we will have to try again another day. You can only go so many days without dialysis, and I wondered if I (was) going to die (that) time,” said Araujo. “Really, the thing that helped me is having a good support system. My mother has been my rock for so long. When anything goes wrong, I can go to her for help. Beyond that, it was my personal faith. At a certain point, you have to lean on God and be like, ‘OK, he’s got this. … This is not my battle.’”
Araujo hopes her story will inspire the Indianapolis community to consider becoming living kidney donors.
“There are children, mothers and fathers who need these organs. People will die every day waiting; I’ve known them. The solution is living kidney donation. It is an altruistic, heroic decision to be a donor.”
Joy Araujo, 29, recently received her second kidney transplant. Araujo hopes her story will inspire the Indianapolis community to consider becoming living kidney donors. (Photo/Submitted)