Coming Home

I’m not a joiner. I’ve never been one. That’s why I was so surprised that I joined the American Association of Kidney Patients… and even more surprised to find myself attending this year’s conference in Tampa Bay, Florida. Readers had been suggesting I do so for years, but I’m not a joiner. Let’s change that; I wasn’t a joiner. The AAKP conference made the difference.

What’s that you ask? Of course, you need to know what they are. This is from their website at https://aakp.org/,

THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF KIDNEY PATIENTS SINCE 1969™

The American Association of Kidney Patients is dedicated to improving the quality of life for kidney patients through education, advocacy, patient engagement and the fostering of patient communities.

Education

The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) is recognized as the leader for patient-centered education – continually developing high quality, professionally written, edited and reviewed educational pieces covering every level of kidney disease.

Advocacy

For nearly 50 years, AAKP has been the patient voice – advocating for improved access to high-quality health care through regulatory and legislative reform at the federal level. The Association’s work has improved long term outcomes in both quality of health and the ability for patients and family members affected by kidney disease to lead a more productive and meaningful life.

Community

AAKP is leading the effort to bring kidney patients together to promote community, conversations and to seek out services that help maximize patients’ everyday lives.

An IRS registered, Sec. 501(C)(3) organization, AAKP is governed by a Board of Directors. The current board is comprised of dialysis patients, chronic kidney disease patients, [Me here: You did notice ‘chronic kidney disease patients,’ right?] transplant recipients, health care professionals and members of the public concerned with kidney disease. The board and membership are serviced by a staff of five employees under the direction of Diana Clynes, Interim Executive Director, at the AAKP National Office located in Tampa, Florida.”

What’s not mentioned here is that the organization was started by only six patients. I find that astounding, but I’ll let them explain their history:

Founded by Patients for Patients

King County Hospital, New York

The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) has a rich history in patient advocacy and kidney disease education. AAKP started in 1969 with six dialysis patients at King County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. They wanted to form an organization that would elevate the kidney patient voice in national health care arena, provide patients with educational resources to improve their lives and give kidney patients and their family members a sense of community. They met twice a week in the hospital ward and while hooked up to primitive dialysis machines for 12 to 18 hours at a time they brainstormed, researched and eventually formed AAKP.

The group originally called themselves NAPH (National Association of Patients on Hemodialysis, which later changed to AAKP). AAKP joined forces with other patient groups to fight for the enactment of the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Program, testifying before congressional committees, seeking public support and creating a newsletter (the forerunner of today’s AAKP RENALIFE) to keep everyone informed. This effort was crowned with success in 1972 when Congress enacted the program that continues to provide Medicare funding for dialysis and kidney transplantation.

After winning the initial and critical battle for the Medicare ESRD Program, AAKP turned its attention to other important issues — the need to establish a secure national organization to preserve the visibility and influence of patients with Congress and to develop national, educational and supportive programs.

Today & Beyond

AAKP has grown into a nationally recognized patient organization that reaches over 1 million people yearly. It remains dedicated to providing patients with the education and knowledge necessary to ensure quality of life and quality of health.”

This former non-joiner has found her association. I originally avoided the conferences because I thought they would be focused only on dialysis and transplant patients. Boy, was I ever wrong. Here are some of the outbreak (small group) sessions that dealt with other aspects of kidney disease:

Social Media (You’re right: I signed up for that one right away since I identify as a CKD awareness advocate.)

Dental Health

How Kidney Disease Impacts Family Members

Managing the Early Stage of CKD

Understanding Clinical Trials

Treatment Options

Staying Active

Veterans Administration

Caregiver’s Corner

Living Well with Kidney Disease

Avoid Infections

Of course, there were many outbreak sessions for dialysis and transplant patients as well. And there were two opportunities to lunch with experts. That’s where I tentatively learned about governmental aspects of our disease. There were opportunities to learn about nutrition, medications, working, and coping. I’ve just mentioned a few of the 50 different topics discussed.

The general sessions, the ones everyone attended, informed us of what the government’s national policy had to do with kidney disease, legislation, nutrition, patient centered care, and innovation in care (Keep an eye out for Third Kidney, Inc.’s August guest blog.).

I have not covered even half of what was offered during the conference. Did I mention renal friendly food was available and you could dialyze near the hotel if need be? The exhibitors went beyond friendly and explaining their products to being interested in who you were and why you were there. This was the most welcoming conference I’d been to in decades.

AAKP President Paul Conway summed up my feelings about the conference when he was interviewed by The Tampa Bay Times on the last day of the conference,

“This meeting is a way for us to bring patients together and educate them on trends that could affect their own health.”

I met so many others who have kidney disease and so many others who advocate for different types of kidney disease and patients’ rights. I was educated about so many areas, especially those I previously had known nothing about, for example, legislation. It was like coming home. Would I attend again? You bet’cha. Would I urge you to attend? At the risk of being redundant, you bet’cha.

I was so excited about AAKP that I almost didn’t leave myself enough space to tell you about yet another freebie. The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 is no longer in print since it has been divided into SlowItDownCKD 2011 and SlowItDownCKD 2012. But I still have a desk copy. Let me know if you’d like it. My only restriction is that you have not received a free book from me before.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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