Here’s to better health and some holiday cheer for Sleepy Eye woman

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

How about a good news holiday story? Jen Cleveland has one for us. 

It started out as a scary story — she needed a kidney transplant — but has a happy ending.

First, the really good news: Jen had surgery on Sept. 20 to get her new kidney. She said it was a four to five hour surgery, with a marathon-like recovery since then, but she is feeling pretty good.

Jen said her health issues started when she was pregnant with her last child, Jazlyn, now 8. During the pregnancy she was sick with ulcerative colitis and didn't know it until after the pregnancy. 

“Luckily, Jazlyn was born healthy and happy,” Jen said. “But, I was dehydrated for too long which caused my kidneys to not work anymore.”

Jen underwent dialysis for eight years — first home Peritoneal dialysis (PD) and then Hemodialysis and at the end. 

“I did it for four hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” Jen said. “I was sick, well mostly tired, and I seemed to catch things that made me go to the hospital a lot, even just the everyday cold.”

Jen said she knows her kidney donor is a male and that is all she knows. 

“I have a packet of information so I can send his parents and loved ones a thank you,” she said. “I pray for them. I cannot imagine losing a child, but I thank God that he was a donor.”

Jen says recovery from her surgery is a marathon, not a sprint, as she adapts to her new life. 

“I’ve already had difficulties with getting my meds right, but it's coming, like I said—marathon not a sprint,” said Jen. “I just thank God that I don't have to do dialysis anymore and I can take my youngest girls to school everyday.”

Jen’s family includes her adult daughter Annaneicia Cleveland and her 16-month-old daughter Harmony; Brienna (19) and Wyatt (16) Barnes; along with daughters, Lyrica (9) and Jazlyn (8), with her husband Tim Cleveland. 

During her recovery, Jen has embarked on a small home-based business, Forever Flowers by Jen, to keep busy and earn a little money.

Jen Cleveland in her "Forever Flowers by Jen" front porch shop.

“I have no immune system right now,” said Jen. “I am on three potent immune suppressants and stay home all day. As I tell my children, ‘you catch a cold, but I catch pneumonia.’ I can't really work out in the public now, so I thought I'd give this a try.” 

About her new business, Jen said, “I always liked flowers, real flowers, fake flowers, it doesn't really matter to me. I like flowers and I like crafts and I like to do them with my family. 

“I made a few arrangements that were meant for sitting in my porch to be cute. I posted a picture of one, because my mom said, ‘Hey, give it a shot,’ and sold three of them!” 

In describing her flower arrangements, Jen said she often notices other crafters’ arrangements have great big flowers in them, to cover more space, but she likes “little bitty flowers” in her work. 

Anyone interested in holiday decorations or gifts, can see pictures of Jen’s work on her Facebook page: Jen’s Forever Flowers. She also welcomes shoppers, or lookers, to her no contact shop in her porch at 312 Maple Street SE.