Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pardon Me Sir, but Could You Spare a Kidney?

Written by: Lisa Collins Kight

Have you ever heard someone say something to the effect, “I’d give my right kidney for a chance to be a part of that expedition?”  Would you give your right kidney to save the life of a human being, a stranger, or your neighbor?  How about Tom, your third cousin on your mother’s side?  You’ve never met him, but you heard from your aunt at the reunion that he has been on the recipient waiting list for a year and a half. Tom happens to be married and has a one year old daughter. Do the odds of saying yes increase if the person in need of a kidney was your wife or child?  My guess is your answer would be yes.
            The National Kidney Foundation hosted a luncheon in the 920 building at Trident Technical College recently for patients that are on dialysis and their caregivers. The purpose of the luncheon was to make sure the recipients were aware of the options available to them.  Some of the patients may be waiting on a kidney transplant, while some may not meet the criteria for a transplant. These men and women depend on dialysis to survive. There were speakers from the National Kidney Foundation, representatives from the local dialysis clinics, and personnel from the Medical University of South Carolina on hand that day to answer questions about the recipient process.  Some of the patients shared their personal story; it was heartbreaking to hear what each of them has to endure each day. Dialysis takes hours to complete the filtration process.
            The attendees arrived by bus, transport, and personal vehicles to attend the luncheon held in the 920 building. I was amazed at the diversity when it came to the men and women that are dialysis patients.  Some of these patients are hoping to be matched for a kidney; some of them are accepting the fact that they do not meet the criteria to receive a kidney transplant. These men and women know dialysis is their only chance of staying alive without healthy kidneys.
            I was assigned to take pictures of the event but found myself wishing I could just take notes so I wouldn’t forget one word that was spoken that day.  I paid special attention because my family is rampant with diabetes.  Having diabetes does not necessarily mean you will have problems with your kidneys, but it definitely increases your chances of being diagnosed with kidney disease. 
            According to the National Kidney Foundation 1 in 3 Americans are at risk for kidney disease. 1 in 9 Americans already have kidney disease. I also learned…

Kidney disease is irreversible
 it kills more people
 breast cancer, prostate cancer,
and leukemia
These sobering facts surprised me because you hear and see so much about a cure for breast cancer and, to be frank, I do not recall ever seeing a commercial or hearing much about the National Kidney Foundation other than the program for car donation.
            I also found out that detecting kidney disease only requires two simple tests. Having diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of kidney disease, and older in age increases your risk for chronic kidney disease (CKD). These are just a few of the factors that put a person at risk.  For more information please go to the National Kidney Foundation website
            If you have even one risk factor, insist that your doctor give you two simple tests.  The first test is called ACR, which looks at protein in the urine.  The second test is a blood test to estimate GFR.  Your GFR numbers tell your doctor how well your kidneys are filtering blood. The only way to find kidney disease is to be tested.  There are no early symptoms.  Most people don’t know they have kidney disease until their kidneys fail. If your kidneys fail, you must rely on dialysis to function for your damaged kidneys, but this is not a permanent solution.
            There are two types of dialysis, peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis.  Both processes remove excess fluid and wastes from the body.  Hemodialysis is routinely done in a dialysis facility and can be done at home with training. Peritoneal Dialysis is typically done at home. Currently, the recommendation for dialysis is three days a week, but in actuality patients should receive dialysis more frequently. Resources are simply not available to provide the patients with what they really need. 
            The only other option is a transplant.  The screening process takes months; you must go through a battery of tests to determine if you are a candidate for organ transplant. If selected you must adhere to strict guidelines regarding your health, diet, and you will have to take medication to lessen the chance of your body rejecting your new kidney for the rest of your life. Cost is also a huge factor in the recipient process.  If you do not have insurance or access to a couple hundred thousand dollars you will not be afforded the opportunity to receive a kidney even if you have a person willing to give you a kidney. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t have that kind of resources. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees with transplant or dialysis.  Your best bet is to do everything in your power to keep your kidneys healthy by adhering to your doctor’s recommendation for treatment of any condition that could increase your risk of CKD. 
            The representative from the Medical University of South Carolina that processes donor applications provided some sobering data.  According to the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN), there are over 100,000 people waiting for organ transplants in the US.  Eight out of 10 of these people are waiting for a kidney.  In the US alone there have been over 600,000 organ transplants since 1988; almost 400,000 have been kidney transplants.  
            I do not understand how this can be, but it is a fact.  This information has me wondering how my kidneys are doing.  My mother had diabetes, early stage kidney disease, and I am of a certain age, which increases my chances substantially.  Until now, I had no idea how at risk I am for chronic kidney disease.  I didn’t know there were tests that will let me know how my kidneys are functioning, but I do now. I plan on making an appointment with my doctor to assess my risk factors as soon as possible.


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