Most people who meet Derek Hudson have no idea he has health problems.
Friends may be aware he's had some kidney issues. But only the closest of the close know that the 32-year-old Capital High and University of Charleston graduate has battled life-threatening kidney disease since he was a teenager.
He already has had two kidney transplants and most surely will face more as a rare, incurable disease continues to ravage his body.
Hudson, who now lives in Jackson County with his parents, frankly says much of his medical treatment has been horrible. And how could it not be - it includes the two transplants, kidney dialysis, many side surgeries, complications and life-saving medications that also have debilitating side effects.
But Hudson, who says he rarely discusses his health situation in detail, is a fighter.
His long-term prognosis isn't good, yet he's planning a future. He would like to marry his girlfriend. They'd like to have children.
Saturday, he'll join others in a walk that starts at the state Capitol, sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation. It's an unusual step for Hudson, who has served on the committee to plan the event, because he doesn't usually put himself up front when it comes to his disease.
But here it is: Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.
Hudson went to bed one night in 1995 and awakened the next morning puffed up by a good 80 pounds. He was 15 years old.
"You couldn't tell it was me," he recalled. "It took a long time to be diagnosed with what I have. Still to this day if I say to a new nurse what I have, they don't know what it is."
If Hudson had been African-American and in his 50s, it may have been diagnosed faster because that's who is most likely to develop the disease. His doctors knew he had kidney problems; they just didn't know at first what they were.
"The disease does three things. It scars your kidneys. Then it puts fluid on you and it gives you severe high blood pressure," Hudson said. "There's no cure. There's no treatment, absolutely nothing you can do."
He calls pediatric nephrologist Myra Chiang the "miracle lady" who diagnosed him and cared for him even past the age when she could call him a pediatric patient.
Chiang gave Hudson the unblemished truth and delivered some advice he took immediately to heart. She told him to learn everything he could about his condition and to take charge of his health.
"She was my second mom," Hudson said.
The rest of his high school days passed in a blur of hospitalizations until Hudson's kidneys were so shot he became eligible for dialysis.
That was no joy.
By that time, Hudson was a student at the University of Charleston, where he spent treatment mornings sitting for five hours while his blood was cleaned of waste his kidneys couldn't take care of.
After that, he headed to class like any other student. He was in a fraternity.
"I did not tell people I was having this stuff. My fraternity brothers knew and they helped drive me places, but no one knew how severe it was," he said. "School was a good distraction."
In 2002, Hudson had his first kidney transplant, from a cadaver. The experience was awful; He got improper treatment after the surgery that further damaged his new kidney - and it had been a perfect match.
Georgetown University doctor Joyce Gonin became his next savior - and another mother figure.
"She's very blunt. She's like my best friend any more - she just tells you the truth," he said.
Hudson said Gonin kept him going until 2008, when his only choice was another transplant.