Sex?

I know, I know. When you see that question on an application, you want to answer ‘yes,’ but you’re only given the choice of male or female. Well, at least that’s my experience. Okay, got that out of the way.

Way back in 2011, the following was included in my first Chronic Kidney Disease book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. This was way before the website, Facebook page, the blog, the Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. Way before the articles, radio shows, and interviews, book signings, and talks about CKD. Come to think of it, this was way before SlowItDownCKD was born.

I haven’t found too much about sex that’s different from the problems of non-CKD patients although with this disease there may be a lower sex drive accompanied by a loss of libido and an inability to ejaculate. Usually, these problems start with an inability to keep an erection as long as usual. The resulting impotency has a valid physical, psychological or psycho-physical cause.

Some of the physical causes of impotence, more recently referred to as Erectile Dysfunction [E.D.] for a CKD patient could be poor blood supply since there are narrowed blood vessels all over the body. Or maybe it’s leaky blood vessels. Of course, it could be a hormonal disturbance since the testicles may be producing less testosterone and the kidneys are in charge of hormones….

While E.D. can be caused by renal disease, it can also be caused by diabetes and hypertension. All three are of importance to CKD patients. Sometimes, E.D. is caused by the medications for hypertension, depression and anxiety. But, E.D. can also be caused by other diseases, injuries, surgeries, prostate cancer or a host of other conditions and bodily malfunctions. Psychologically, the problem may be caused by stress, low self-esteem, even guilt to name just a few of the possible causes….

Women with CKD may also suffer from sexual problems, but the causes can be complicated. As with men, renal disease, diabetes and hypertension may contribute to the problem. But so can poor body image, low self-esteem, depression, stress and sexual abuse. Any chronic disease can make a man or a woman feel less sexual….

Common sense tells us that sex or intimacy is not high on your list of priorities when you’ve just been recently diagnosed….

Sometimes people with chronic diseases can be so busy being the patient that they forget their partners have needs, too. And sometimes, remembering to stay close, really close as in hugging and snuggling, can be helpful….

Well, what’s changed since I was writing What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease? in 2010?

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/sexuality now includes the following on their website:

It’s important to remember that people with kidney failure can have healthy marriages and meaningful relationships. They can fall in love, care for families, and be sexual. Staying intimate with those you love is important. It’s something everyone needs.

Many people think that sexuality refers only to sexual intercourse. But sexuality includes many things, like touching, hugging, or kissing. It includes how you feel about yourself, how well you communicate, and how willing you are to be close to someone else.

There are many things that can affect your sexuality if you have kidney disease or kidney failure — hormones, nerves, energy levels, even medicine. But there are also things you and your healthcare team can do to deal with these changes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or get help from a healthcare professional.

DaVita at https://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/living-with-ckd/sexuality-and-chronic-kidney-disease/e/4895 also offers advice:

Once again, it’s important to remember, you are not alone.

There are no limits with regard to sexual activities you may engage in as a patient with renal disease, as long as activity does not place pressure or tension on the access site, causing damage. (Me: This is for advanced CKD.)

If you are sexually active, practicing safe sex and/or using birth control are needed, even if you think you may be physically unable to have children.

Activities such as touching, hugging and kissing provide feelings of warmth and closeness even if intercourse is not involved. Professional sex therapists can recommend alternative methods as well.

Keeping an open mind and having a positive attitude about yourself and your sexuality may lower the chances of having sexual problems.

There are both medical and emotional causes for sexual dysfunction. The reason for your dysfunction can be determined through a thorough physical exam in addition to an assessment of your emotional welfare and coping skills.

Relaxation techniques, physical exercise, writing in a journal and talking to your social worker or a therapist can help you to feel better about your body image and/or sexual dysfunction.

Resuming previous activities, such as dining out or traveling, as a couple or single adult, can be helpful.

Provide tokens of affection or simple acts of kindness to show you care.

Communicate with your partner or others about how you feel.

According to the Kidney Foundation of Canada at file:///C:/Users/Owner/AppData/Local/Packages/Microsoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe/TempState/Downloads/Sexuality%20and%20CKD.pdf, these may be the causes of sexual problems in CKD.

Fatigue is a major factor. Any chronic illness is tiring, and chronic kidney disease, which is often accompanied by anemia and a demanding treatment, practically guarantees fatigue.

Depression is another common issue. Almost everyone experiences periods of depression, and one of the symptoms of depression is loss of interest in sexual intimacy.

Medications can also affect one’s ability or desire to have intercourse. Since there may be other medications which are just as effective without the side effect of loss of sexual function or desire, talk to your doctor about your pills.

Feelings about body image Having a peritoneal catheter, or a fistula or graft, may cause some people to avoid physical contact for fear of feeling less attractive or worrying about what people think when they look at them. (Me: Again, this is for late stage CKD.)

Some diseases, such as vascular disease and diabetes, can lead to decreased blood flow in the genital area, decreased sexual desire, vaginal dryness and impotence.

It looks like the information about CKD and sexuality hasn’t changed that much, but it does seem to be more available these days.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Advertisements

Helping Where You Can

When my brothers made it public that they each had Parkinson’s’ Disease several years ago, I decided to see how I could help. They were being well taken care of by their wives and their medical teams, so they didn’t need my help. Maybe I could help others, I reasoned. So I began exploring ways I might be able to do that… and found one.

It was clear clinical trials with people of my heritage were being conducted and needed participants. It wasn’t clear what these studies entailed. They weren’t reader friendly enough for me to understand, but after multiple emails and phone calls asking for clarification, I finally understood. During the whole process, I kept thinking to myself that this was a wonderful way to help if only it were more accessible – meaning more easily understood.

A couple of weeks ago, Antidote Match approached me about carrying their widget on my blog roll. If you look at the bottom of the lists on the right side of the blog, you’ll see it in turquoise. Actually, I chose turquoise because you just can’t miss that color.

According to the National Institutes of Health (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/studies/clinicaltrials/ :

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. These studies also may show which medical approaches work best for certain illnesses or groups of people. Clinical trials produce the best data available for health care decision making.

The purpose of clinical trials is research, so the studies follow strict scientific standards. These standards protect patients and help produce reliable study results.

Clinical trials are one of the final stages of a long and careful research process. The process often begins in a laboratory (lab), where scientists first develop and test new ideas.

If an approach seems promising, the next step may involve animal testing. This shows how the approach affects a living body and whether it’s harmful. However, an approach that works well in the lab or animals doesn’t always work well in people. Thus, research in humans is needed.

For safety purposes, clinical trials start with small groups of patients to find out whether a new approach causes any harm. In later phases of clinical trials, researchers learn more about the new approach’s risks and benefits.

A clinical trial may find that a new strategy, treatment, or device
• improves patient outcomes;
• offers no benefit; or
• causes unexpected harm

All of these results are important because they advance medical knowledge and help improve patient care.

Important, right? But why Antidote Match, you ask? That’s easy: because it’s easy. The information offered is in lay language, the common language you and I understand, rather than in medicalese. Maybe I should just let them present their own case.

Antidote Match™

Matching patients to trials in a completely new way
Antidote Match is the world’s smartest clinical trial matching tool, allowing patients to match to trials just by answering a few questions about their health.

Putting technology to work
We have taken on the massive job of structuring all publicly available clinical trial eligibility criteria so that it is machine-readable and searchable.

This means that for the first time, through a machine-learning algorithm that dynamically selects questions, patients can answer just a few questions to search through thousands of trials within a given therapeutic area in seconds and find one that’s right for them.

Patients receive trial information that is specific to their condition with clear contact information to get in touch with researchers.

Reaching patients where they are
Even the smartest search tool is only as good as the number of people who use it, so we’ve made our search tool available free of charge to patient communities, advocacy groups, and health portals. We’re proud to power clinical trial search on more than a hundred of these sites, reaching millions of patients per month where they are already looking for health information.

Translating scientific jargon
Our platform pulls information on all the trials listed on clinicaltrials.gov and presents it into a simple, patient-friendly design.

You (Gail here: this point is addressed to the ones conducting the clinical trial) then have the option to augment that content through our free tool, Antidote Bridge™, to include the details that are most important to patients – things like number of overnights, compensation, and procedures used. This additional information helps close the information gap between patients and researchers, which ultimately yields greater engagement with patients.

Here’s how Antidote Match works
1. Visit search engine → Patients visit either our website or one of the sites that host our search.
2. Enter condition → They enter the condition in which they’re interested, and begin answering the questions as they appear
3. Answer questions → As more questions are answered, the number of clinical trial matches reduces
4. Get in touch: When they’re ready, patients review their matches and can get in touch with the researchers running each study directly through our tool

A bit about Antidote
Antidote is a digital health company on a mission to accelerate the breakthroughs of new treatments by bridging the gap between medical research and the people who need them. We have commercial agreements with the majority of the top 25 pharmaceutical companies and CROs, and a partner network that is growing every day.

Antidote was launched as TrialReach in 2010 and rebranded to Antidote in 2016. We’re based in New York, NY and London, U.K. For more information, visit www.antidote.me or contact us at hello@antidote.me.

Try it from the blog roll. I did. I was going to include my results, but realized they wouldn’t be helpful since my address, age, sex, diseases, and conditions may be different from everyone else’s. One caveat: search for Chronic Renal Insufficiency or Chronic Renal Failure (whichever applies to you) rather than Chronic Kidney Disease.

On another note entirely: my local independently owned book store – Dog Eared Pages – in Phoenix has started carrying the SlowItDownCKD series. Currently, they have 2016 in stage. I had a wonderful time reading from my novel Portal in Time there last Thursday night and was more than pleasantly surprised at the number of CKD awareness contacts I made.
Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Feed Me

Over the years, I’ve seen advertisements for food preparation services. You know the ones that cook your meals and deliver them weekly. I would approach the people offering the service to see what they could do with the renal diet. That was a deal killer right there.

All right, I figured. Maybe what I should be doing is finding a chef who is willing to work with kidney patients rather than ask existing food preparation services to accommodate just me. I even had one chef who agreed that this is a valuable service and something she wanted to do. I was excited. Then she simply stopped emailing and answering calls. That was a couple of years ago.

I sort of gave up… until I ran into an advertisement for Clarence’s food service. I figured it was worth it to try again and called him. It was.

I explained to Clarence that I don’t permit advertising on my blog, but I would like other Chronic Kidney Disease patients to see how they can make use of food preparation services such as his. He was kind enough to write this guest blog for us. I’m hoping that this inspires you to approach a chef in your area to ask him/her if he/she is willing to provide such a service. Of course, not all of us want to have someone else prepare our meals or want to spend the money to do so, so this is a blog for that portion of readers who do.

Meal Planning for Those with Kidney Disease.
Clarence Ferguson, RTSM, CMTA, NT

Understanding your kidney disease, or renal disease, is the first step in taking control of your health. While I am not a doctor, I have aligned myself with those whose specialize in CKD so that I can adjust meals accordingly. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys are no longer able to remove waste effectively from your body or to balance your fluids. The buildup of wastes can change the chemistry of your body causing some symptoms that you can feel, and others that you don’t.

With kidney diseases, the first symptoms you may have are ones that you won’t feel but that will show up in tests that your doctor orders. Common problems are high blood pressure, anemia and weakening bones. It is important to find a kidney doctor (also called a nephrologist). And once you have your doctor’s recommendation that’s where we come in and prepare your meal according to his or her recommendations.

Okay Clarence, we know that but how do we navigate healthy eating?

Here are some suggestions for you and what I prepare for clients who struggle with CKD.

Make sure these snacks are readily available:
1. Fruit: apples, grapes, tangerines or strawberries; dried cranberries or blueberries; or packaged fruit cups with diced     peaches, pears, pineapple, mandarin oranges or mixed fruit. Make sure they are organic.
2. Low- or no-sodium microwave popcorn.
3. Low-sodium crackers, pita chips or unsalted pretzels.
4. Pouches of tuna or chicken and a side of Vegainse (a dairy free option for mayonnaise).
5. Kidney-friendly nutrition bars or liquid supplements, such as the ones from ID life, since they meet these guidelines.

What we do at Fit Body Foods
1. Compare brands. Sodium and potassium levels can vary significantly from one brand to another.
2. Look for low-sodium labels on packaging. Stock up on the lowest sodium broths, stocks and condiments.
3. Choose fresh vegetables, or frozen or canned veggies with no added salt or sodium.
4. Use only 1/4 as much of the tomato sauce and canned tomatoes that a recipe calls for to limit potassium and sodium.
5. Don’t use canned fish or chicken with added salt. All fish is fresh, so we can control the sodium levels by rinsing to reduce the sodium. Try to limit use of canned goods in general.
6. Avoid baking and pancake mixes that have salt and baking powder added. Instead, make a kidney-friendly recipe from scratch.
7. Use sweet pickles instead of dill pickles and check for added salt.
8. Check cold and instant hot cereals for sodium amounts. Although oatmeal contains more phosphorus than some cereals, it may be okay one to two times a week if phosphorus is well-controlled.
9. Check the ingredients in vinegar. Some vinegars, such as seasoned rice vinegar, contain added salt and sugar.
10. Avoid store-bought sauces and gravies that have mystery ingredients in them. Make our own instead from real-food ingredients.
11. Use homemade soup recipes, such as Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup, instead of pre-made or canned soups. Some soups contain more than 800 mg sodium per serving.
12. Low – and reduced – sodium broth is great for use in cooking. We save the homemade broth from stewed or boiled chicken or beef.
13. Don’t trade sodium for potassium. Some products replace salt with potassium chloride.
14. Limit nuts, seeds and chocolate as they are high in potassium and phosphorus.

We prepare food weekly and deliver to our clients on Sundays. We take the worry out of meal prep, our meals start at $7.99 a meal, and we can accommodate most palates. We can be reached for orders at: info@coachclarence.com.

Below is a sample recipe:
Cucumber-Carrot Salad
Diet types: CKD non-dialysis, Dialysis, Diabetes
Portions: 4
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Ingredients:
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cucumber
1 cup carrots
2 tablespoons green onion
2 tablespoons red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash® Italian Medley seasoning blend

Notice there is nothing new here. We all know this information. What is appealing is having someone else, someone who understands our diet limitations, buy the food and prepare it for our meals. I explained to Clarence that our food needs as far as electrolytes change with each blood test and he agreed that it’s important to eat according to your numbers. That’s something he’s very willing to pay attention to. Should this interest you, why not approach a professional in your area to see if they can also provide such a service?Big news! SlowItDownCKD 2011 is now available on Amazon.com in both print and digital (and needs reviews: hint). SlowItDownCKD 2012 will not be far behind. These are the first and second parts of the reformatted, larger print, more comprehensively indexed The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, (available only until SlowItDownCKD 2012 is published).

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

This Former Hippy Wannabe Likes HIPAA

Each day, I post a tidbit about, or relating to, Chronic Kidney Disease on SlowItDownCKD’s Facebook page. This is the quote from Renal and Urology News that I posted just a short while ago:

“Patients with stage 3 and 4 chronic kidney disease (CKD) who were managed by nephrology in addition to primary care experienced greater monitoring for progression and complications, according to a new study.”

My primary care physician is the one who caught my CKD in the first place and is very careful about monitoring its progress. My nephrologist is pleased with that and feels he only needs to see me once a year. The two of them work together well.

From the comments on that post, I realized this is not usual. One of my readers suggested it had to do with HIPPA, so I decided to look into that.

The California Department of Health Care Services (Weird, I know, but I liked their simple explanation.) at http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/formsandpubs/laws/hipaa/Pages/1.00WhatisHIPAA.aspx defined HIPPA and its purposes in the following way:

“HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996. HIPAA does the following:

• Provides the ability to transfer and continue health insurance coverage for millions of American workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs;
• Reduces health care fraud and abuse;
• Mandates industry-wide standards for health care information on electronic billing and other processes; and
• Requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information”

Got it. Let’s take a look at its last purpose. There is an infogram from HealthIT.gov at https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/YourHealthInformationYourRights_Infographic-Web.pdf  which greatly clarifies the issue. On item on this infogram caught my eye:

“You hold the key to your health information and can send or have it sent to anyone you want. Only send your health information to someone you trust.”

I always send mine to one of my daughters and Bear… and my other doctors if they are not part of the hospital system most of my doctors belong to.

I stumbled across National Conference of State Legislatures at http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/hipaa-a-state-related-overview.aspx and learned more than I even knew existed about HIPAA. Take a look if you’d like more information. I finally tore myself away from the site to get back to writing the blog after following links for about an hour. It was fascinating, but not germane to today’s blog.

Okay, so sharing. In order to share the information from one doctor that my other doctors may not have, I simply fill out an Authorization to Release Medical Information form. A copy of this is kept in the originating doctor’s files. By the way, it is legal for the originating doctor to charge $.75/page for each page sent, but none of my doctors have ever done so.

I know, I know. What is this about doctors being part of the hospital system? What hospital system? When I first looked for a new physician since the one I had been using was so far away (Over the usual half-an-hour-to-get-anywhere-in-Arizona rule), I saw that my new PCP’s practice was affiliated with the local hospital and thought nothing of it.

Then Electronic Health Records came into widespread use at this hospital. Boom! Any doctor associated with that hospital – and that’s all but two of my myriad doctors – instantly had access to my health records. Wow, no more requesting hard copies of my health records from each doctor, making copies for all my other doctors, and then hand delivering or mailing them. No wonder I’m getting lazy; life is so much easier.

Back to HealthIt.gov for more about EHR. This time at https://www.healthit.gov/buzz-blog/electronic-health-and-medical-records/emr-vs-ehr-difference/:

“With fully functional EHRs, all members of the team have ready access to the latest information allowing for more coordinated, patient-centered care. With EHRs:

• The information gathered by the primary care provider tells the emergency department clinician about the patient’s life threatening allergy, so that care can be adjusted appropriately, even if the patient is unconscious.
• A patient can log on to his own record and see the trend of the lab results over the last year, which can help motivate him to take his medications and keep up with the lifestyle changes that have improved the numbers.
• The lab results run last week are already in the record to tell the specialist what she needs to know without running duplicate tests.
• The clinician’s notes from the patient’s hospital stay can help inform the discharge instructions and follow-up care and enable the patient to move from one care setting to another more smoothly.”

Did you notice the part about what a patient can do? With my patient portal, I can check my labs, ask questions, schedule an appointment, obtain information about medications, and spot trends in my labs. Lazy? Let’s make that even lazier. No more appointments for trivial questions, no more leaving phone messages, no more being on hold for too long. I find my care is quicker, more accessible to me, and – believe it or not – more easily understood since I am a visual, rather than an audial, person.

Kudos to American Association of Kidney Patients for postponing their National Patient Meeting in St. Petersburg from last weekend to this coming spring. The entire state of Florida was declared in a state of emergency by the governor due to the possible impact of Hurricane Irma. The very next day, AAKP acted to postpone placing the safety of its members over any monetary considerations. If I wasn’t proud to be a member before (and I was), I certainly am now.

Aha! That gives me five found days to separate The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 and The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 each into two separate books with indexes. I never was happy with the formatting of those two. I plan to reward myself after this project. How, you ask. By writing a book of short stories. I surmise that will be out next year sometime. Meanwhile, there’s always Portal in Time, a time travel romance. Geesh! Sometimes I wonder at all my plans.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Singapore Knows CKD

I have an online friend, Leong Seng Chen, who lives in Singapore and is highly active in the Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness community there. Last week, I asked if any readers would like to see certain organizations that weren’t already there added to the blogroll – the list of CKD organizations to the right of the blog itself. He mentioned two but one was a Facebook page and the other was for dialysis. I usually write a blog about current Facebook pages once a year and don’t usually write about dialysis.

His request, which I couldn’t honor, got me to thinking about what is going on for CKD patients in Singapore. So, I started poking around.

The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (of all places!) looked into this in 2008, a decade ago, and published the following at http://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/3/2/610.full.

The NKF Singapore Prevention Program presents a unique approach that incorporates a comprehensive multilevel strategy to address chronic kidney disease …. What makes the NKF Singapore program different is that it incorporated a public health approach to preventing ESRD by using primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention initiatives that can intervene at several stages in the progression of kidney disease. These include 1) surveillance of the general population for urinary abnormalities, 2) screening of the general population for clinical conditions that increase the risk of chronic kidney disease, such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension, 3) the institution of a disease management program to facilitate the management of patients with diabetes and hypertension, which are among the leading causes of ESRD in the country, and to a limited extent, 4) tracking of the individuals who participate in the screening program. Thus, both population-based and high-risk prevention strategies were incorporated into the Singapore Prevention Program.

If you think about it for a moment, this is an astoundingly comprehensive approach to awareness, prevention, and treatment.

I was intrigued and looked further. This chart is from Health Exchange/Singapore at https://www.healthxchange.sg/digestive-system/kidney/chronic-kidney-disease-singapore-stats-prevention-tips. As you can see, it includes statistics up to (and including) 2012. That’s still half a decade ago.

I had naively assumed the National Kidney Foundation was an American organization. Here, in the United States, it is. There, in Singapore, it’s a Singaporean organization.

In Singapore, CKD awareness is not just an adult undertaking. There is a bus provided by the NKF that goes to schools, among other places, to educate young children about how to prevent and recognize the disease, as well as what the kidneys do. Somehow, I found that charming and necessary simultaneously. Why don’t we do that in the United States, I wonder. Take a look at https://www.nkfs.org/kidney-health-education-bus/ to see for yourself what I’m talking about here.

The National Registry of Disease Office was founded by the Ministry of Health in 2001. While the most current statistics I could find, they only record Chronic Kidney Failure, or End Stage Chronic Renal Disease (ESRD). According to their website at https://www.nrdo.gov.sg/about-us,

We are responsible for:
● collecting the data and maintaining the registry on reportable health conditions and diseases that have been diagnosed and treated in Singapore
● publishing reports on these health conditions and diseases
● providing information to support national public health policies, healthcare services and programmes

Meanwhile, the statistics from Global Disease Burden Healthgrove are only four years old and give us a better understanding of what’s happening in Singapore as far as CKD. You can choose different filters at http://global-disease-burden.healthgrove.com/l/67148/Chronic-Kidney-Disease-in-Singapore

As they phrase it: These risk factors contributed to, and were thought to be responsible for, an estimated 100% of the total deaths caused by chronic kidney disease in Singapore during 2013.

I hadn’t been aware of just how involved with CKD Singapore is until Leong started telling me. Now, I’m astounded to learn that this country is number four in deaths from our disease.

Just as in the United States, Singapore posts lists of nephrologists, herbal aids, hospital studies, and even medical tourism sites. While I may or may not approve of such listings, they have opened my eyes to the fact that Singapore plays with the big boys when it comes to CKD. Come to think of it, they may even be more developed when it comes to educating the public. Remember those education buses?

Many thanks to Leong Seng Chen, my CKD friend on Facebook this past year and- hopefully – many more years to come.

On another topic entirely, winning a place in Healthline’s Top Six Kidney Disease Blogs two years in a row spurred me on to finally rework both The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Parts 1 and 2 into something more manageable: each book will be divided into two books with their own indexes and renamed SlowItDownCKD and the year. Right now I’m working on SlowItDownCKD 2011. Hey, let’s hold the cheering down there.

In addition, all the Kindle versions of each of the SlowItDownCKD books are now $2.99 in order make them more accessible to more people. I’m working on lowering the price for the print books too, but that seems to be more complicated…or maybe I just don’t understand the process yet. I would stick to Amazon.com since B & N.com simply never responds to my attempts to lower the price on any of my books.

By the way, have you heard about this from AAKP? (You can read more about it on their website.)

AAKP has been in the news and across social media lately as public interest continues to build in KidneyWorks – a groundbreaking national initiative we developed in full collaboration with our partners at the Medical Education Institute (MEI). The multiphase initiative aims to identify and address barriers to continued employment for individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Phase I of KidneyWorks involved a consensus roundtable of national experts on kidney disease and workforce experts who convened in Washington, D.C. and the development and public release of a White Paper detailing strategies to help working-age people with non-dialysis chronic kidney disease (CKD) improve their lives, slow CKD progression, and keep their jobs. Phases II and III will involve the development, production and dissemination of strategies and online and mobile tools that help workers, caregivers and employers help achieve the goals of KidneyWorks.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Updated

 

 

 

You may have seen the pictures of the updates we’ve been making to our home on Facebook or Instagram. Now, it seemed to me that if I could update my home, I could update SlowItDownCKD’s social media. So I did. The website at www.gail-raegarwood.com is totally SlowItDownCKD now, as are the Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts. Of course, the blog was next. I liked my updates, but realized some of the new organizations on the blogroll (the list to the right of the blog) may be unknown to you.

No problem. I’ll just introduce them to you. Allow me to make the introductions…

We’ll go alphabetically down the roll here. The American Association of Kidney Patients, The American Kidney Fund, and The American Society of Nephrology are not new. Just in case you need a reminder of what each is, I’ve linked their titles to the organization. Just click on one of them to go to their websites, as you usually do for any title on the blogroll.

This brings us to The International Federation of Kidney Foundations. This is directly from the young (established 1999) organization’s website:
The International Federation of Kidney Foundations leads the way in the prevention and treatment of kidney disease, through its Membership on all continents around the world. The Federation was formed to foster international collaboration and the exchange of ideas that will improve the health, well-being and quality of life of individuals with kidney disease. We hope to achieve this by advocating for improved health care delivery as well as adopting and disseminating standards of best practice of treatment and care. We facilitate education programs for member organisations, promote research, communicate with other organisations and exchange ideas, particularly those concerning fund raising….
The IFKF helps facilitate the establishment of more kidney foundations and to help existing foundations become more dynamic and effective. Worldwide, most individuals with chronic kidney disease or hypertension are not diagnosed until long after the illness has developed. Moreover, when they are diagnosed they are too often treated sub-optimally or not at all. In many parts of the world, once end stage kidney failure occurs, patients do not have access to dialysis or kidney transplantation.
IFKF members join together with ISN members and kidney patient associations, to celebrate World Kidney Day annually in March, to influence general physicians, primary healthcare providers, health officials and policymakers and to educate high risk patients and individuals.

I’ve been interested in the global effects of Chronic Kidney Disease since I started preparing for Landmark’s 2017 Conference for Global Transformation at which I presented this past May. Writing two articles for their journal opened my eyes- yet again – to the fact that this is not just a local problem, but a worldwide problem. That’s why I included Kidney Diseases Death Rate By Country, On a World Map in the blogroll. I mapped out the statistics I found here on a trifold map to exhibit at the conference. Seeing the numbers spread all over the world was startling, to say the least.

Here is their 2015 global CKD information:
In 2015, the Asian nations of India and China fared the worst when it came to the number of deaths due to this degenerative health condition per thousand people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data (I’m interrupting. Would you like a link to WHO on the blogroll?), India had the highest number of kidney diseases deaths. The data put the figure at an astounding 257.9 per 1,000 people. China had the second highest number of deaths due to kidney diseases. Here, the number stood at 187.4 per 1,000 people. Though not as bad as the two Asian nations, the United States was also grappling with the problem of kidney diseases deaths in 2015. The nation had 59.8 deaths (per 1,000 people) due to kidney diseases, while Indonesia, which occupied the fourth place, had an estimated 43 deaths (per 1,000 people) due to kidney diseases. Nations such as Egypt, Germany, Mexico, Philippines, Brazil, Thailand and Japan reported deaths between 20 and 40 (per 1,000 people) due to kidney-related diseases. But, on the positive side, there were many nations in the world where a negligible number of people died due to kidney diseases. It is a noteworthy fact that countries such as Maldives, Vanuatu, Iceland, Grenada, Comoros, Belize, and many others, reported a zero figure in 2015.

But then I wanted to cover more localized information about CKD, so I included The National Chronic Kidney Disease, Fact Sheet, 2017. This is basically facts with pictograms that make the information about the United States’ CKD information more visual and easier to grasp. The information is more distressing each year the site is updated.

Fast Stats

• 30 million people or 15% of US adults are estimated to have CKD.*

• 48% of those with severely reduced kidney function but not on dialysis are not aware of having CKD.

• Most (96%) people with kidney damage or mildly reduced kidney function are not aware of having CKD.

After several sites that are not new, the last new site, other than direct links to SlowItDownCKD’s kidney books, is The Kidney & Urology Foundation of America. Why did I include that? Take a look at their website. You’ll find this there:
The Kidney & Urology Foundation focuses on care and support of the patient, the concerns of those at risk, education for the community and medical professionals, methods of prevention, and improved treatment options.
What Sets Us Apart?
The Kidney & Urology Foundation of America is comprised of a dedicated Executive Board, medical advisors, educated staff and volunteers who provide individualized support to patients and their families. Adult nephrologists and transplant physicians comprise our Medical Advisory Board, Board – certified urologists serve on the Urology Board, and pediatric nephrologists and urologists represent the Council on Pediatric Nephrology and Urology.
We are a phone call or e-mail click away from getting you the help you need to cope with a new diagnosis, a resource for valuable information on kidney or urologic diseases, a window into current research treatment options or a link to a physician should you need one.

Are there any organizations I’ve left out that you feel should be included? Just add a comment and I’ll be glad to take a look at them. I am convinced that the only way we’re going to get any kind of handle on Chronic Kidney Disease as patients is by keeping each other updated.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

How Did It Get Political?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Dr. Amy D. Waterman at UCLA’s Division of Nephrology’s Transplant Research and Education Center. We’d met at Landmark’s 2017 Conference for Global Transformation. She has brought to the world of dialysis and transplant the kind of education I want to see offered for Chronic Kidney Disease. I also asked for ideas as to how I could help in developing this kind of contribution to CKD awareness… and the universe answered.

First the bad news, so you can tell when the good news come in. Here in the U.S., The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/news/national-kidney-foundation-statement-macarthur-amendment-to-american-health-care-act issued the following statement on May 3 of this year:
“The National Kidney Foundation opposes the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as amended. The amendment to AHCA, offered by Representative Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), raises significant concerns for millions of Americans affected by chronic diseases. If this bill passes, National Kidney Foundation is highly concerned that insurers in some states will be granted additional flexibility to charge higher premiums, and apply annual and lifetime limits on benefits without a limit on out-of-pocket costs for those with pre-existing conditions, including chronic kidney disease. The bill also permits waivers on Federal protections regarding essential health benefits which could limit patient access to the medications and care they need to manage their conditions. These limits could also include access to dialysis and transplantation. For these reasons, we must oppose the legislation as amended.


In addition, National Kidney Foundation is concerned that the elimination of income based tax credits and cost sharing subsidies, combined with the reduction in funds to Medicaid, will reduce the number of people who will obtain coverage; many of whom have, or are at risk for, chronic kidney disease (CKD).”

The world sees what stress Trump is causing our country (as well as our planet.) Yet, there is hope in the form of a new bill.

“… the bill — introduced in the House by Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pennsylvania), John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Peter Roskam (R-Illinois) — aims to:
• Have the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issue a series of recommendations to Congress on “how to increase kidney transplantation rates; how palliative care can be used to improve the quality of life for those living with kidney disease; and how to better understand kidney disease in minority populations” – to back federal research efforts;
• Create an economically sustainable dialysis infrastructure and modernized quality programs to improve patient care and quality outcomes — for instance, by creating incentives to work in poorer communities and rural areas;
• Increase access to treatment and managed care for patients with a confirmed diagnosis of kidney disease by ensuring Medigap coverage for people living with ESRD, promoting access to home dialysis and allow patients with ESRD to keep their private insurance coverage.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 660,000 Americans are receiving treatment for ESRD. Of these, 468,000 are undergoing dialysis and more than 193,000 have a functioning kidney transplant.”

Thank you to the CDC at bit.ly/2rX8EG5 for this encouraging news. Although it’s just a newly introduced bill at this time, notice the educational aspects of the first point.
For those outside the U.S, who may not know what it is, this is how Medicare was defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease “U.S. government health insurance for those over 65, those having certain special needs, or those who have end stage renal disease.”

An interview with Trump while he was campaigning last year was included in SlowItDownCKD 2016, (11/14/16) This is what he had to say about medical coverage for those of us with pre-existing conditions like CKD. (Lesley Stahl is the well-respected interviewer.)
“Lesley Stahl: Let me ask you about Obamacare (Me here: that’s our existing health care coverage.), which you say you’re going to repeal and replace. When you replace it, are you going to make sure that people with pre-conditions are still covered?
Donald Trump: Yes. Because it happens to be one of the strongest assets.’ ….
What does the president elect say about Medicare? Those of us over 65 (That’s me.) have Medicare as our primary insurance. I am lucky enough to have a secondary insurance through my union. How many of the rest of us are? By the way, if Medicare doesn’t’ pay, neither does my secondary.”

This is from the same book:
“Here’s what Trump had to say in a rally in Iowa on December 11th of last year (e.g. meaning 2015).
‘So, you’ve been paying into Social Security and Medicare…but we are not going to cut your Social Security and we’re not cutting your Medicare….'”

We do not have the most truthful president here in the U.S., so you can see how even the introduction of the Marino, Lewis, Roskam bill is good news for us. While this is not meant to be a political blog, our pre-existing illness – our CKD – has caused many of us to unwittingly become political.


I see myself as one such person and so will be attending the AAKP Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, in September. What’s the AAKP you ask? Their Mission Statement at https://aakp.org/mission/ tells us:

“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 more than 40 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.”

For those of you of can’t get to the Conference, they do offer telephone seminars. The next one is June 20th. Go to https://aakp.org/aakp-healthline/ for more information.

Talking about more information, there will be more about AAKP in next week’s blog.
Until next week,
Keep living your life!

CKD and the VA or It’s Not Alphabet Soup at All

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is not a day to say Happy Memorial Day since it is a day commemorating those who gave their lives for our freedom. Lots of us have bar-b-ques or go to the park or the beach to celebrate. No problem there as long as we remember WHO we are celebrating. I promise: no political rant here, just plain appreciation of those who serve(d) us both living and dead. Personally, I am honoring my husband, my step son-in-law, and all those cousins who just never came home again.

I explained the origins of this day in SlowItDownCKD 2015 (May 25), so won’t re-explain it here. You can go to the blog and just scroll down to that month and year in the drop down menu on the right side of the page under Archives. I was surprised to read about the origins myself.

We already know that Chronic Kidney Disease will prevent you from serving your country in the military, although there are so many other ways to serve our country. This is from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

‘The Department of Defense’s Instruction for Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services establishes medical standards, which, if not met, are grounds for rejection for military service. Other standards may be prescribed for a mobilization for a national emergency.

As of September 13, 2011, according to Change 1 of this Instruction, the following was included.

‘Current or history of acute (580) nephritis or chronic (582) Chronic Kidney Disease of any type.’

Until this date, Chronic Kidney Disease was not mentioned.”

You can read the entire list of The Department of Defense’s Instruction for Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services at http://dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/613003p.pdf. You’ll also find information there about metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and pre-diabetes as conditions for non-enlistment.

This got me to thinking. What if you were had already enlisted when you developed CKD. Yes, you would be discharged as medically unfit, but could you get help as a veteran?

According to the Veterans Administration at https://www.research.va.gov/topics/Kidney_disease.cfm#research4,

“In 2012, VA and the University of Michigan began the work of creating a national kidney disease registry to monitor kidney disease among Veterans. The registry will provide accurate and timely information about the burden and trends related to kidney disease among Veterans and identify Veterans at risk for kidney disease.

VA hopes the kidney disease registry will lead to improvements in access to care, such as kidney transplants. The department also expects the registry will allow VA clinicians to better monitor and prevent kidney disease, and will reduce costs related to kidney disease.”

That’s what was hoped for five years ago. Let’s see if it really came to fruition.

Oh, this is promising and taken directly from The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“VA eKidney Clinic

The VA eKidney Clinic is now available! The eKidney Clinic offers patient education through interactive virtual classrooms where Veterans can learn how to take care of their kidneys and live a good life with kidney disease. Please visit the VA eKidney Clinic website or click on the picture below. For additional information see the eKidney Clinic Patient Information Brochure.”

The Veterans Health Administration doesn’t just provide information, although I must say I was delighted to see the offer of Social Work Services. There is also treatment available. Notice dialysis mentioned in their mission statement.

Mission: The VHA Kidney Program’s mission is to improve the quality and consistency of healthcare services delivered to Veterans with kidney disease nationwide. The VHA Kidney Program provides kidney-related services to dialysis centers throughout VA’s medical centers. Professional guidance and services are available in the form of consultation and policies developed by VA kidney experts. These experts are dedicated to furthering the understanding of kidney disease, its impact on Veterans, and developing treatments to help patients manage disease symptoms. In addition, the VHA Kidney Program provides VA healthcare professionals with clinical care, education, research, and informatics resources to improve healthcare at local VA dialysis facilities.”

I did find it strange that there was a cravat on the Veterans Administration site that they do not necessarily endorse the VHA Kidney Program, especially since it is so helpful.

 

 

 

How involved is the VA with CKD patients? Take a look for yourself at this 2015 statistics by going to https://www.va.gov/HEALTH/services/renal/documents/Kidney_Disease_and_Dialysis_Services_Fact%20Sheet_April_2015.pdf

  • All Veterans enrolled in VA are eligible for services, regardless of service connection status
  • Enrolled Veterans can receive services from the VA or from community providers under the Non-VA Care Program if VA services are unavailable
  • 49 VA health care facilities offer kidney disease specialty care (nephrology services)
  • 96 VA facilities offer inpatient and/or outpatient dialysis; 25 centers are inpatient-only. Of the 71 VA outpatient dialysis centers, 64 are hospital based units, 2 are joint VA/DoD units, 4 are freestanding units, and one is within a community based outpatient clinic (CBOC)
  • VA enrollees must be offered the option of home dialysis provided either directly by the VA or through the Non-VA Care Program
  • 36 outpatient hemodialysis centers offer home dialysis care directly.
  • 5 VA medical centers host kidney transplantation programs.
  • VA Delivered Kidney Care (Calendar Year 2013) 13,794 Unique Veterans receiving dialysis paid for by VA; representing an annual increase of 13% since 2008. 794 Veterans received home dialysis; 55percent (434) by VA facilities and 45percent (360) under the Non-VA Care Program.
  • Increasing use of telehealth services to increase Veteran access to kidney specialty care Secure messaging: 7,319 messages, Clinical video telehealth: 4,977 encounters
  • VA Kidney Research (FY ’14) the research budget for the study of kidney disease has been $18.5 million per year for the past 5 years (FY ’10-FY ’14). The VA Cooperative Studies Program has supported national clinical trials addressing the best treatment of Veterans with CKD since at least 1998.

It seems to me our veterans are covered. Now if we could only make sure the rest of us stay covered no matter what bills the current administration signs into law.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Ratio: Is That Like Rationing?

urine containerA friend called me Friday night wondering what her creatinine/albumin ratio meant since that reading was high on her last blood draw. Actually, she wanted to know if this was something to worry about. After extracting a promise that she would call her doctor with her questions today when her physician’s office opened for business again, I gave her some explanations. Of course, then I wanted to give you the same explanations.

Although the Online Etymology Dictionary tells us both ratio and rationing are derived from the same Latin root – ratio – which means “reckoning, calculation; business affair, procedure,” also “reason, reasoning, judgment, understanding,” they aren’t exactly the same. My old favorite, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ratio at dictionaryhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ratio in the following way: the relationship in quantity, amount, or size between two or more things, as in that of your creatinine and albumin.

As for rationing, if you’re old enough to remember World War II, you know what it means. If you’re not, the same dictionary can help us out again. At https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rationing, we’re told it’s “a share especially as determined by supply.” Nope, doesn’t work here since we’re not sharing our creatinine or albumin with anyone else. We each have our own supply in our own ratios, albeit sometimes too high or sometimes too low.

What are creatinine and albumin anyway? Let’s see what we can find about creatinine in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.

“Additional important jobs of the kidneys are removing liquid waste from your body and balancing the minerals in the body. The two liquid waste products are urea which has been broken down from protein by the digestive system and creatinine which is a byproduct of muscle activity.”

Well, what about albumin? This can get a bit complicated. Remember, the UACR (Hang on, explanation of this coming soon.) deals with urine albumin. There’s an explanation in SlowItDownCKD  2016 about what it’s not: serum albumin.

“Maybe we should take a look at serum albumin level. Serum means it’s the clear part of your blood, the part without red or white blood cells. This much is fairly common knowledge. Albumin is not. Medlineplus, part of The National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003480.htm tells us, ‘Albumin is a protein made by the liver. A serum albumin test measures the amount of this protein in the clear liquid portion of the blood.’ Uh-oh, this is also not good: a high level of serum albumin indicates progression of your kidney disease. Conversely, kidney disease can cause a high level of serum albumin.”

17362522_10212181967927975_1328874508266442848_n (1)

This is from SlowItDownCKD 2015 and explains what the UACR is and why your albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UAC R) is important:

In recent years, researchers have found that a single urine sample can provide the needed information. In the newer technique, the amount of albumin in the urine sample is compared with the amount of creatinine, a waste product of normal muscle breakdown. The measurement is called a urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR). A urine sample containing more than 30 milligrams of albumin for each gram of creatinine (30 mg/g) is a warning that there may be a problem. If the laboratory test exceeds 30 mg/g, another UACR test should be done 1 to 2 weeks later. If the second test also shows high levels of protein, the person has persistent proteinuria, a sign of declining kidney function, and should have additional tests to evaluate kidney function.

Thank you to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse , a service of the NIH, at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/proteinuria/#tests for that information.”

Basically, that means if you have a high UACR once, get your urine retested a week or two later before you even think about worrying, which is what my friend’s doctor confirmed. But do make sure to get that second test so you can be certain your kidney function is not being compromised.

I was thrilled that both my paper and notes from the field about Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness were accepted for Landmark’s Journal for the  Conference for Global Transformation AND then be able to Journal for the Conference for Global Transformationpresent a poster about it during the conference this past weekend. In addition I was lucky enough to have lunch with one of the keynote speakers. Who, you ask? Amy D. Waterman, Ph.D.

This is one important person to us. She has changed the face of pre dialysis and transplant education globally by starting “an educational nonprofit corporation and has been awarded more than $20 million in grants…she has reached tens of thousands of people to date, educating them in the miracle of live organ donation. Last year, Dr. Waterman was invited to the White House to share about the possibility of ending the organ donor shortage.” This material is from the Journal of the 2017 Conference for Global Transformation, Volume 17, No. 1.

This is exactly what we need to do for early and moderate stage CKD. This is what the social media presence, the blogs, and the books are about. And you know what? That’s just.plain.not.enough. Last I heard, I have 107,000 readers in 106 countries. And you know what? That’s just.plain.not.enough. Am I greedy? Absolutely when it comes to sharing awareness of CKD. Do I know how to expand my coverage? Nope…not yet, that is. I am so very open to suggestions? Let me hear them!

K.E.E.P.Lest we forget, this year’s first Path of Wellness Screening will be Saturday, June 17th at the Indo American Cultural Center’s community hall, 2809 W. Maryland Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85017. As they’ve stated, “The free screening events can process up to 200 people.  Their use of point-of-care testing devices provides blood and urine test results in a matter of minutes, which are reviewed onsite by volunteer physicians.  All screening participants are offered free enrollment in chronic disease self-management workshops.  Help is also given to connect participants with primary care resources.  The goals of PTW are to improve early identification of at-risk people, facilitate their connection to health care resources, and slow the progression of chronic diseases in order to reduce heart failure, kidney failure and the need for dialysis.”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

The Helper Asks for Help

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Deanna Power, Director of Outreach Disability Benefits Help at the Social Security Administration. My first thought: are they raising my monthly amount? But isn’t it the wrong time of year for an awards letter from them? And why would the email be from Disability anyway? Hmmm, so I did the logic thing; I opened the email and read it.

Look at this! Ms. Power wants me to help those on dialysis and those who have a transplant understand the application for SSA. While I don’t usually deal with either End Stage Chronic Kidney Disease or Transplantation, this struck me as worthwhile. Take note of the possibility of SSA for less advanced kidney disease, too. So, without further ado…

****

If you have been diagnosed with kidney disease, you know that maintaining your career can be challenging due to your health needs and frequent doctor’s appointments. There might be financial assistance available for you.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will compare any applicant with kidney disease to its own medical guide of qualifying conditions, the Blue Book (written for medical professionals), which outlines exactly what treatments or test results are needed to qualify. This is under Section 6.00 which outlines three separate listings for kidney disease. Meeting one is enough to medically qualify.

6.03: Chronic kidney disease with hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. Dialysis must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least one year. Disability benefits will be paid throughout your treatments. An acceptable medical source (blood work, physician’s notes, etc.) is needed to approve your claim. You also may meet a kidney disease listing before your first round of dialysis, so be sure to check listing 6.05 (below) if your doctor is considering dialysis.

6.04: Chronic kidney disease with transplant. You will automatically medically qualify for disability benefits for at least one year. After that the SSA will revaluate your claim to determine if you are still eligible for disability benefits.

6.05: Chronic kidney disease, with impairment of function. This is the most complicated listing. The Blue Book – which was written for medical professionals – is available online, so you should review it with your doctor to know if you’ll qualify. In simplified terms, the Blue Book states:

You must have one of the following lab findings documented on at least two occasions, 90 days apart, within the same year:

  • Serum creatinine of 4mg/dL or greater, OR
  • Creatinine clearance of 20 ml/min or less, OR
  • Estimated glomerular filtration rate of 20 ml/min/1.73m2 or less

Additionally, you must have one of the following:

  1. Renal osteodystrophy (bone disease caused by kidney failure) with severe bone pain  and acceptable imaging documenting bone abnormalities, such as osteitis fibrosa, osteomalacia, or bone fractures, OR
  2. Peripheral neuropathy, OR
  3. Anorexia with weight loss, determined with a BMI of 18.0 or less, calculated on at least two occasions at least 90 days apart within the same year, OR
  4. Fluid overload syndrome with one of the following:
  • High blood pressure of 110 Hg despite at least 90 days of taking prescribed medication. Blood pressure must be taken at least 90 days apart during the same year.
  • Signs of vascular congestion or anasarca (fluid build up) despite 90 straight days of prescribed medication. Again, the vascular congestion or anasarca must have been recorded at the hospital at least twice, three months apart, and all within the same year.

You may need additional tests to evaluate your kidney function to determine your eligibility.

The SSA has a special approval process called a “Medical Vocational Allowance” that helps people with less advanced kidney disease get financial assistance when your kidney disease prevents you from performing any work that you’re qualified for. The SSA will look at how your treatments prevent you from working, and then compare your restrictions to your age, education, and work history.

Older applicants have an easier time qualifying this way, as the SSA believes they’ll have a harder time getting retrained for a new job. If you don’t have a college degree, you’ll also have an easier time getting approved, as people with college degrees often have a variety of skills that can be used at sedentary jobs. The more physical your past jobs, the better your chances of approval.

A Medical Vocational Allowance relies heavily on the findings from the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation. An RFC documents how much you can stay seated or on your feet, how much weight you can lift, your ability to stoop and walk, and more. You can download an RFC online for your doctor to fill out on your behalf.

The majority of applicants can complete the entire process online. This is the easiest way to apply as you can save your progress to complete your application later. If you’d prefer to apply in person, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment at your closest Social Security office. There are at least four locations in every state.

The most important components of your application will be your thoroughness and attention to detail. Fill out every question on the application. Describe how your kidney disease impacts your ability to work specifically, or how it keeps you from performing daily tasks as you used to. Any complications or side effects from your treatments and medications need to be recorded as well.

The SSA will not require you to submit your medical records yourself, but you do need to list every hospital where you’ve received treatment. If the SSA can’t find evidence documenting your kidney disease, you won’t be approved.

It takes an average of five months to be approved. That’s when your benefits start. You will be eligible for Medicare 24 months after “the onset of your disability,” which is typically the point at which your kidney disease stopped you from working. If your kidney disease is end stage, your waiting period will be waived.

****

Many thanks to Ms. Power for suggesting I pass on this information. Please use the links, file your papers, and make life a bit easier for yourself if you fit into any of these designations. It’s all about helping each other after all, isn’t it?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Getting Juiced

I have the gentlest nephrologist in the world! Well, I think so anyway. He has been cautioning me about my weight for years. Yes, there it is again: my weight. Here I was finally coming to terms with being a chubby since nothing I was doing seemed to work to lose the weight. That’s when he tossed out a bombshell.

We all know that increased weight can raise your blood pressure which, in turn, negatively affects your kidneys. I was so pleased with myself for having raised my GFR another three points on my last blood test that I didn’t understand how I could be leaking protein into my urine at the same time. Wasn’t protein in the urine simply an indication that you have Chronic Kidney Disease? Didn’t I already know that? So why was protein leaking into my urine to the tune of 252 mg. when the norm was between 15-220 mg?

I know, I know: back up a bit. Thanks for the reminder. GFR is defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease this way:

“GFR: Glomerular filtration rate [if there is a lower case ‘e’ before the term, it means estimated glomerular filtration rate] which determines both the stage of kidney disease and how well the kidneys are functioning.”

Oh, and just in case you’ve forgotten, this excerpt from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 is a good reminder about the stages of CKD.

“Different stages require different treatment or no treatment at all.  There are five stages with the mid-level stage divided into two parts. The higher the stage, the worse your kidney function.

Think of the stages as a test with 100 being the highest score.  These are the stages and their treatments:

STAGE 1: (normal or high) – above 90 – usually requires watching, not treatment, although many people decide to make life style changes now: following a renal diet, exercising, lowering blood pressure, ceasing to smoke, etc.

 STAGE 2: (mild) – 60-89 – Same as for stage one

STAGE 3A: (moderate) – 45-59 – This is when you are usually referred to a nephrologist [Kidney specialist]. You’ll need a renal [Kidney] dietitian, too, since you need to be rigorous in avoiding more than certain amounts of protein, potassium, phosphorous, and sodium in your diet to slow down the deterioration of your kidneys. Each patient has different needs so there is no one diet.  The diet is based on your lab results.  Medications such as those for high blood pressure may be prescribed to help preserve your kidney function.

STAGE 3B: (moderate) – 30-44 – same as above, except the patient may experience symptoms.

STAGE 4:  (severe 15-29) – Here’s when dialysis may start. A kidney transplant may be necessary instead of dialysis [Artificial cleansing of your blood]. Your nephrologist will probably want to see you every three months and request labs before each visit.

STAGE 5: (End stage) – below 15 – Dialysis or transplant is necessary to continue living.

Many thanks to DaVita for refreshing my memory about each stage.”

Okay, back to the connection between spilling protein into your urine (called proteinuria) and CKD. This is from the recently published SlowItDownCKD 2016:

“In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, The National Institutes of Health helped me explain why this combination of excess weight and pre-diabetes was a problem for CKD patients:

‘High blood glucose and high blood pressure damage the kidneys’ filters. When the kidneys are damaged, proteins leak out of the kidneys into the urine. The urinary albumin test detects this loss of protein in the urine. Damaged kidneys do not do a good job of filtering out wastes and extra fluid. Wastes and fluid build up in your blood instead of leaving the body in urine.’”

Let’s say you don’t have pre-diabetes, but do have CKD. Does proteinuria still make it worse? Damn! It does. This explanation is from SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“The problem is that antibodies are made up of protein. Antibodies is defined by Dictionary.com at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/antibodies as

‘A protein substance produced in the blood or tissues in response to a specific antigen, such as a bacterium or a toxin, that destroys or weakens bacteria and neutralizes organic poisons, thus forming the basis of immunity.’

Lose lots of protein into your urine and you’re losing some of your immunity. In other words, you’re open to infection.”

I guess that explains why I magically developed a UTI after years of not having any.

I have gone so far afield from what I intended to write about on this last Monday of National Kidney Month. What was that, you ask? It was my nephrologist’s strong suggestions for immediate weight loss: juicing. I was so surprised.

After all that writing about eating the raw vegetables for roughage and sticking to only three specified amount servings of each daily, this expert in his field was telling me to ignore all that and throw myself into juicing for the immediate future. But you can bet I’ll try it; no way I’m throwing nine years of keeping my kidneys healthier and healthier out the window.

I can’t tell you if it works since I only started yesterday, but I can tell you it doesn’t taste bad. I’m learning how to use this fancy, dancy blender we got three years ago that had just been sitting on the shelf. Experimenting with the consistency has caused a mess here and there, but oh well.

My first juicing experience included kale, celery, lemons, cucumbers, and ginger. I definitely need to play with my combinations. I also think I made far too much. Luckily Bear was in the house and shouted out that the machine was making that noise because I didn’t add enough water. Water? You’re supposed to add water?

I’ll keep you posted on these experiments if you’ll get yourself tested for CKD. It’s just a blood and urine test. Fair deal?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Women Marching to the Kidney’s Beat

In keeping with my theme of March being Women’s History Month – minus the history – and National Kidney Month, today’s blog will be about those women around the world who have contributed to Chronic Kidney Disease knowledge. Two such women, Dr. Vanessa Grubbs and Dr. Bessie Young, were highlighted in February’s tribute to Black History Month and women in nephrology. Thank you again, ladies, for all you do for CKD patients.

When you realize the study of nephrology as we know it is only a little over 50 years old (Incredible, isn’t it?), you’ll understand why I raided The International Society of Nephrologists (ISN) October 2010 issue at http://www.theisn.org/images/ISN_News_Archive/ISN_News_35_October_2010_LR.pdf for the following information. I’ve added notes for clarification when needed.

United States: An accomplished researcher and physician, Josephine Briggs is a former ISN councilor and former councilor and Secretary of ASN (American Society of Nephrologists). She is the former director of the Division of Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Diseases, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was responsible for all NIH funded renal research in the 1990s. Today, she is Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. She maintains a lab at NIDDK, researching the renin-angiotensin system, diabetic nephropathy, circadian regulation of blood pressure, and the effect of antioxidants in kidney disease.

Europe: Rene Habib, who passed away (in 2010), was a truly pioneering renal pathologist. She provided the first description of many renal diseases and worked with ISN founder Jean Hamburger to establish nephrology as a new discipline in Europe. Her contributions and energy were central to establishing pathology as an essential and integrated component of this new field worldwide.

India: Vidya N. Acharya was the first woman nephrologist in India and trained some 150 internists in nephrology. For three decades, her research focused on Urinary Tract Infection. She was a consultant nephrologist at Gopalakrishna Piramal Memorial Hospital and director of the Piramal Institute for training in Dialysis Technology, Renal Nutrition and Preventive Nephrology in Mumbai. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Society of Nephrology in 2007.

China: HaiYan Wang is the Editor of Kidney International China and has been an ISN and ASPN (American Society of Pediatric Nephrology) councilor and Executive Committee member as well as a member of the editorial boards of Chinese and international renal journals. She has published over 200 articles and books in Chinese and English. She graduated from Beijing Medical University. After three years of internship, she became a nephrology fellow at the First Hospital Beijing Medical University. Since 1983, she moved on to Chief of Nephrology and later became Professor of the Department of Medicine at the First Hospital Beijing. She has been Chairman of the Chinese Society of Nephrology and is Vice President of the Chinese Medical Association. Her unit is the largest training site for nephrology fellows in China.

United Arab Emirates: Mona Alrukhaimi is co-chair of the ISN GO (International Society of Nephrologists Global Outreach Programs) Middle East Committee, and the leader of the KDIGO (Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes) Implementation Task Force for the Middle East and African regions. She is also a Member of the Governing Board of the Arab Society of Nephrology and Renal Transplantation. Since 2006, she has actively organized World Kidney Day activities in the United Arab Emirates and prepared the past four rounds of the ISN Update Course in Nephrology. Having played an active role in the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism, she contributes to serve on the custodian group and takes part in the Steering Committee for Women in Transplantation under The Transplantation Society.

South Africa: Saraladevi Naicker carried the weight of setting standards and provided the first training program for nephrologists in Africa over the last decade (Remember this article was published in 2010.). Specializing in internal medicine, she trained in Durban and later helped set up a Transplant Unit in the Renal Unit at Addington Hospital. In 2001, she became Chief Specialist and Professor of Renal Medicine at University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and in 2009 was appointed Chairman of Medicine at Wits. She is proud that there are currently (Again: in 2010) six postgraduate students from Africa studying for higher degrees in nephrology under her tutelage. Over the years, Naicker’s unit has served as the main training site for young nephrologists from across Africa and many individuals trained by her are currently practicing in Africa. Naicker received the Phillip Tobias Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006, an honor which bears testimony to her teaching prowess.

Israel: Batya Kristal is Professor of Medicine at the Technion Medical School, Haifa. She is the first woman to direct an academic nephrology department in Israel. At the Western Galilee Hospital, Nahariya, she leads a translational research project focusing on different aspects of oxidative stress and inflammation. She also heads a large clinical nephrology and dialysis program, which uniquely integrates staff and patients from the diverse ethnic population of the Galilee. Founder of the Israeli NKF, initiator and organizer of the traditional annual international conferences at Nahariya, she is truly an important role model for women in the country.

Australia: After holding resident positions in medicine and surgery and as registrar in medicine at the Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, Priscilla Kincaid-Smith was director and physician of Nephrology at Royal Melbourne Hospital and Professor of Medicine at University of Melbourne. She demonstrated overwhelming evidence of the link between headache powders and kidney damage and contributed to research on the links between high blood pressure and renal malfunction. The only female ISN President so far, she was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire “for services to medicine”, was awarded the David Hume Award from the National Kidney Foundation (USA) and became a Companion of the Order of Australia.

There’s very little room for me to add my own words this week so I’ll use them to add myself as a lay woman in nephrology (What hubris!) to let you know that the edited digital version of SlowItDownCKD 2016 will be out on Amazon later this week. You guessed it: in honor of National Kidney Month.

 

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Women and Water (Men, too)

Welcome to March: National Kidney Month and Women’s History Month. I’m going to fudge a bit on the ‘History’ part of that as I did last month with Black History Month. I don’t often have guest bloggers, but this month will feature two women as guest bloggers in honor of Women’s History Month. The first is Jessica Walter, who sent me the following email last month:

Hi There,

I am a freelance health and food writer, I have teamed up with a small senior lifestyle advice site, I worked with them to develop a complete guide on how to eat better and be healthier from a dietary point of view. This includes detailed information on why being hydrated is so important. … you can check out the article here:

https://www.senioradvisor.com/ blog/2017/02/7-tips-on- developing-better-eating- habits-in-your-senior-years/.

I liked what Jessica had to say and how easily it could be adapted not only for senior Chronic Kidney Disease patients, but all Chronic Kidney Disease patients.

In addition, she sent me this short article about hydration and CKD. It’s easy to read and has some information we constantly need to be reminded of.

Staying Hydrated When You Have Chronic Kidney Disease

We all know that drinking water is important for our health, and monitoring fluid intake is critical for those with chronic kidney disease. Too much water can be problematic, but so can too little. Dehydration can be serious for those with chronic kidney disease. If you are suffering from vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or diabetes, or if you urinate frequently, you may become dehydrated because you are losing more fluid than you are taking in. For those without chronic kidney disease, the solution is to increase the intake of water until the body is sufficiently hydrated.

Since dehydration can decrease blood flow to the kidneys, and as fluid intake must be controlled in patients with chronic kidney disease, it’s important to closely monitor their fluid intake and loss in these circumstances.

Recognizing The Signs

The first step is to recognize the physical signs of dehydration. You may have a dry mouth or dry eyes, heart palpitations, muscle cramps, lightheadedness or fainting, nausea, or vomiting. You may notice a decrease in your urine output. Weight loss of more than a  pound or two over a few days can also be an indicator of dehydration. If you are taking ACE inhibitors and ARBs, such as lisinopril, enalapril, valsartan, or losartan, or water pills or diuretics, these medications can harm your kidneys if you become dehydrated. It is doubly important to be aware of signs of dehydration if you are on any of these medications.

Steps to Take

To rehydrate your body, start by increasing your intake of water and ensure that you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. (Me here: remember to stay within your renal diet guidelines for fruits, vegetables, and fluids.)If you cannot keep water down, or if increased consumption doesn’t alleviate the signs of dehydration, contact your health care provider  immediately.

They may also recommend a different fluid than plain water since electrolytes and minerals can also be reduced if you are dehydrated, but you may still need to watch your intake of potassium, phosphorus, protein, and sodium. Your doctor may recommend an oral rehydration solution that will restore your body to a proper level of hydration. If you have a fluid restriction because you are on dialysis, you should consult your healthcare provider if you have issues with or questions about hydration. Taking in or retaining too much fluid when you have these restrictions can lead to serious complications, including headaches, swelling, high blood pressure and even stroke. Carefully monitoring your fluid intake and watching for signs of dehydration will help you to avoid the consequences of dehydration.

I’ve blogged many times over the last six years about hydration. I’m enjoying reading this important material from another’s point of view. I’m sorry Jessica’s grandmother had to suffer this, but I’m also glad Jessica chose to share her writing about it with us.

 

This June, 2010, article included in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 furthers explains:

“.…Dr. HL Trivedi of the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre (IKDRC) said, ‘…. Rapid water loss causes the kidney’s functioning to slow down, resulting in temporary or permanent kidney failure.’

Extreme heat causes rapid water loss, resulting in acute electrolyte imbalance. The kidney, unable to cope with the water loss, fails to flush out the requisite amount of Creatinine and other toxins from the body. Coupled with a lack of consistent water intake, this brings about permanent or temporary kidney failure, explain experts.”

The article can be viewed directly at http://www.dnaindia.com/health/report_heat-induced-kidney-ailments-see-40pct-rise_1390589 and is from “Daily News & Analysis.”

The CDC also offers advice to avoid heat illness:

“People with a chronic medical condition are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in this category need the following information.

  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor, and have someone do the same for you.
  • Check the local news for health and safety updates regularly.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook——it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you or someone you know experiences symptoms of heat-related illness(http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning

It’s clear we need to keep an eye on our hydration. While we’re doing that, keep the other eye out for SlowItDownCKD 2016 purposely available on World Kidney Day on Amazon.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

February is Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, I thought I would write about Blacks who have contributed to the research and treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease. I’ll be highlighting a few people and then dealing with why CKD is treated differently for Blacks.

Ladies first: Dr. Bessie Young is a nephrologist… and more. This is from The University of Washington’s Department of Medicine at young-bessiehttps://medicine.uw.edu/news/dr-bessie-young.

“Dr. Young is a professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology and holds adjunct titles in the Departments of Epidemiology and Health Services. She received her MD in 1987 and her MPH in 2001, both from the University of Washington.

Her research focuses on racial disparities and genetic factors predicting outcomes of patients with kidney disease, education regarding access to transplantation and dialysis for minorities, and access to kidney disease care in rural areas.”

While I have great admiration for both Drs. Young and Kountz (see below), I feel a connection with Dr. Vanessa Grubbs. We corresponded a bit when she first began her blog, which is both personal and professional. We all know I’m not a doctor and have never claimed to be one, but I’m convinced I can feel what a nephrologist feels when I read her blog.  This is from The California Health Care Foundation’s website at http://www.chcf.org/authors/vanessa-grubbs?article=%7BF610E00F-9FE7-4E95-AEBB-5781EE7E0F66%7D:

“Dr. Grubbs is an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the University of California, San Francisco, Zuckerberg San Francisco General vanessa-grubbHospital, where she has maintained a clinical practice and clinical research program since 2009. Though most of her time is dedicated to research and patient care, her passion is creative nonfiction writing. She is working on her first book, and she blogs at thenephrologist.com.”

Her book, Hundreds of Interlaced Fingers: A Kidney Doctor’s Search for the Perfect Match will be available on Amazon.com this June. By the way, she donated a kidney to her husband when they were only dating.

Samuel L. Kountz, M.D was another innovative contributor to Nephrology from the Black Community. As Blackpast.org tells us:

“In 1961 Kountz and Roy Cohn, another leading surgeon, performed the first successful kidney transplant between two people who were close relatives but not twins.  Over the next decade Kountz researched the process of kidney transplants on dogs.  He discovered that monitoring blood flow into the new kidney and administering methylprednisolone to the patient after surgery allowed the body to accept the new organ.    samuel-kountz

In 1966 Kountz joined the faculty at Stanford University Hospital and Medical School and in 1967 he became the chief of the kidney transplant service at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).  There he worked with Folker Belzer to create the Belzer kidney perfusion machine.  This innovation kept kidneys alive for 50 hours after being removed from the donor.  Through Kountz’s involvement at UCSF, the institution’s kidney transplant research center became one the best in the country.  Kountz also created the Center for Human Values at UCSF, to discuss ethical issues concerning transplants.”

It’s time for an explanation as to why I wrote “why CKD is treated differently for Blacks,” isn’t it?

This is from Jane E. Brody’s article Doctors sharpen message on kidney disease reprinted in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1:

“There are four main risk factors for kidney disease:  diabetes, high blood pressure, age over 60 and a family history of the disease. Anyone with these risk factors should have a test of kidney function at least once a year, Vassalotti said.  (Me here: he was the National Kidney Foundation’s Chief Medical Officer at the time the article was written). Members of certain ethnic groups are also at higher than average risk: blacks, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.”

This means physicians need to monitor blood pressure and diabetes more closely for blacks (as well as the other high risk groups).

Why, you ask.  This bit from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease will explain about the blood pressure.

“HPB can damage small blood vessels in the kidneys to the point that they cannot filter the waste from the blood as effectively as they should. Nephrologists may prescribe HBP medication to prevent your CKD from getting worse since these medications reduce the amount of protein in your urine.  Not too surprisingly, most CKD related deaths are caused by cardiovascular problems.”IMG_2979

As for diabetes, I turned to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, for this tidbit:

“According to Diabetes.co.uk at http://www.diabetes.co.uk/how-does-diabetes-affect-the-body.html, ‘The kidneys are another organ that is at particular risk of damage as a result of diabetes and the risk is again increased by poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol’”

In addition, there is a gene more prevalent in Blacks that can exacerbate their CKD. “This discovery provides direct evidence that African-Americans with established CKD and the APOL1 risk gene variant experience a faster decline in kidney function compared to their white counterparts, irrespective in most cases of what caused their kidney disease.” Afshin Parsa, M.D., a nephrologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and a CRIC Study investigator.

parsaDr. Parsa was referring to the study on APOL1 which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The following is from The National Kidney Foundation’s Fact Sheet on Blacks and CKD at https://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/factsheets/African-Americans-and-CKD.

  • Blacks and African Americans suffer from kidney failure at a significantly higher rate than Caucasians – more than 3 times higher.
  • African Americans constitute more than 35% of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure, but only represent 13.2% of the overall U.S. population.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in African Americans. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as Caucasians. Approximately 4.9 million African Americans over 20 years of age are living with either diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes.
  • The most common type of diabetes in African Americans is type 2 diabetes. The risk factors for this type of diabetes include: family history, impaired glucose tolerance, diabetes during pregnancy, hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, obesity and physical inactivity. African Americans with diabetes are more likely to develop complications of diabetes and to have greater disability from these complications than Caucasians. African Americans are also more likely to develop serious complications such as heart disease and strokes.
  • High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure among African Americans, and remains the leading cause of death due to its link with heart attacks and strokes.NKF-logo_Hori_OB

Today’s blog was a bit longer than usual to bring you this important information. We celebrate Black History Month AND need to make our Black family members, friends, and co-workers aware of their heightened risk so they can help prevent their own CKD.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

At Last: Cuba

img_4287I’ve been saying for a couple of weeks now that I would write about Cuba, or rather The Republic of Cuba since that is the country’s official title. That’s where I spent my Groundhog’s Day 70th birthday in the company of my husband, brother, and sister-in-law. By the way, whenever we travel together, they are the best part of the trip no matter what we see or where we go.

But I digress; Cuba is a beautiful country with friendly people and colorful buildings painted in those colors the government approves … in addition to free education and free medical care. Considering Cuba is a country run by The Communist Party, maybe this universal medical and education isn’t as free as we might think.

Let’s take a look at the education first since you can’t have nephrologists without education. While there is free education, you need to be loyal to the government and perform community service as the ‘price’ of receiving it. I wasn’t clear about how you demonstrated “loyal to the government,” but the Cubanos (as the Cuban people refer to themselves) politely declined to discuss this.

The education includes six years of basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic – the same 3 Rs we study in grade school in the USA. After that, there are three years of img_4006middle school with traditional school subjects that are taught pretty much anywhere. But then things change. Cubanos can attend what we might consider a traditional high school for three years or a vocational school for three years.  This is also when marching in parades and community service begins.

Nephrologists would have chosen the traditional high school. After that, there’s another five to six years of university for their medical degree. Not everyone attends university; students need to pass certain exams in order to be allowed to attend… something we’re used to hearing. So now our doctor has become a doctor. What additional education is needed to become a nephrologist?

I tried to question the people I met in ports of call, but again they declined to answer in full. From the little bit I got from them and the even less I could garner from the internet: all medical students need to do a residency in General Medicine. If you want to go on to a specialty – like Nephrology – you need to do an additional residency in that field.

Well, what about the medicine itself? What do Cubano doctors know about nephrology?

According to Radio Angulo – Cuba’s information radio – on November 23 of last year,

img_4040“The positive development of this specialty began with the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, as Dr. Charles Magrans Buch, full professor and professor emeritus, told Granma International. Magrans began practicing his profession in 1958 in the Clinico de 26, today the Joaquin Albarran Clinical-Surgical Teaching Hospital, home to the Dr. Abelardo Buch Lopez Institute of Nephrology.”

Granma International describes itself as The Official Voice of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee.

As for the quality of the medical schools,

“…Cuba trains young physicians worldwide in its Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). Since its inception in 1998, ELAM has graduated more than 20,000 doctors from over 123 countries. Currently, 11,000 young people from over 120 nations follow a career in medicine at the Cuban institution.”  You can read more about ELAM in Salim Lamrani’s blog in the 8/8/14 edition of The Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/salim-lamrani/cubas-health-care-system-_b_5649968.html

Yesterday, I stumbled upon this which is also from Granma: “The Cuban Institute of Nephrology is celebrating its 50th anniversary this December 1st, having provided more than 5,000 kidney transplants and 3,125 patients with dialysis.”

So, nephrology is not new to Cuba nor is there a dearth of opportunities to study this specialty. Keep in mind that this is government run health care. There aren’t img_4142any private clinics or hospitals in Cuba.

And how good is that health care system? This is from the 4/9/14 HavanaTimes.org:

“Boasting health statistics above all other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (and even the United States), Cuba’s healthcare system has achieved world recognition and been endorsed by the World and Pan-American Health Organizations and the United Nations.”

HavanaTimes.org is not part of the government. Some of their writers have been blacklisted, while others have been questioned. Somehow, that makes me feel more secure that their information is not the party line but more truthful. I don’t mean to say the government is dishonest, but I prefer information from private sources in this case.

Before you get your passport in order and book a trip to Cuba for medical reasons, you should know  “…it is not legal for Americans to go to Cuba as medical tourists….” This information is from Cuba Medical Travel Adviser & Guide at http://www.doctorcuba.com/. What I found curious is that it is not illegal for Cuban doctors to treat American patients in Cuba. Do Americans disguise themselves as being from other countries to obtain the low cost, high quality medical treatment Cuba has to offer? How can they do that if a passport is needed to enter the country? Maybe I’m naïve.

img_4213Cuban medicine follows a different model than that of the USA. A general (family) doctor earns about $20 a month with free housing and food.  His or her mornings are spent at the clinic with the afternoons reserved for house calls. Doctors treat patients and/or research. Preventive medicine is the norm with shortages of medication and supplies a constant problem.

You have to remember that I have limited access to information about Cuba (as does the rest of the world), and am not so certain my even more limited Spanish – which is not even Cubano Spanish – and the limited English of the Cubanos I spoke with has allowed me to fully understand the answers I was given to the questions I asked.

It’s been fun sharing what I think I learned with you since it brought the feeling of being in Cuba right back. Can you hear the music?  I’ve got to get up to dance.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!IMG_2979