Adult Toys

In keeping with my promise to myself that August would be answer-readers’-questions month, this week I’ll be writing about the occupational therapy toys a reader asked about. Did you think I meant the other kind of adult toys? Hmmm, maybe it would make sense to know why toys are used in dealing with neuropathy in the first place.

As my occupational therapist explained it, the therapy toys are used to stimulate the nerve endings to bud so that new pathways may be created. I don’t fully understand it, but this is what I wrote in my July 29th blog:

“I have a bag of toys. Each has a different sensory delivery on my hands and feet. For example, there’s a woven metal ring that I run up and down my fingers and toes, then up my arms and legs. I do the same with most of the other toys: a ball with netting over it, another with rubber strings hanging from it. I also have a box of uncooked rice to rub my feet and hands in… and lots of other toys. The idea is to desensitize my hands and feet.”

Ah, but now we know these therapy toys are used for more. Desensitization? Good. Building new pathways for sensations? Better. Yes, I want my hands and feet to stop feeling so tingly all the time, but I also want to be able to feel whatever it is I’m holding or touching. Remember, for me, this was an unexpected side effect of chemotherapy, although it could have just as easily been diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Aha! Now you see why I’ve included this in the blog posts in the first place: Diabetes is the number one cause of Chronic Kidney Disease.

Ready to explore some therapy toys? Well, all rightee. Let’s start with my favorite, the one I call the smoosh ball. Oh, since I bought a bag full of these different therapy toys on Amazon, none were labeled so I made up my own names for them. Hey, I’m a writer. I can get away with that.

This one is soft and rubbery. It’s the “another with rubber strings hanging from it,” mentioned above that I rub on my toes and up my legs, then my fingers and up my arms as I do with most of these therapy toys. It causes the loveliest goose bumps. I’m surprised that Shiloh, our 80 pound dog, doesn’t go after it just for the way it seems to shimmer. I also squeeze the smoosh ball with each hand.

The opposite of the smoosh ball is the steel ring. This one is almost painful if I’m not careful. In addition to using it on my hands, arms, fingers, and toes as I did the smoosh ball, I also use it as a ring on each toe and finger moving it up and down. Notice I’m not mentioning how many repetitions I do for each of the therapy toys. That’s because everyone is different. Your neuropathy may be worse than mine, or – hopefully – not as bad as mine.

The pea pod is the hardest therapy toy for me to use. The idea is to squeeze the pod to cause the peas to pop up one by one. Sounds easy, right? Nope. You need to isolate these fingers you can’t even feel until you get the right ones pressing on the right places to make that little fellow pop out.

The brush is a comforting therapy toy. I wonder if this is why horses like being curried (brushed). It’s a soft, rubber brush which feels almost luxuriant as I rub it up my fingers, arms, toes, and legs. It was also the first therapy toy I was introduced to since the occupational therapist used it during my first treatment.

Then there’s the ball with the netting around it. I do the usual rub the fingers, arms, toes, and legs with it. I also squeeze it like a stress ball. It feels completely different than the smoosh ball and even makes a sort of flatulence sound when I squeeze it. Well, that was unexpected.

I have a small ball that looks like a globe. Maybe that’s because children use these therapy toys, too? All I can figure out to do with this is to squeeze it like a stress ball. I’ll have to remember to ask the occupational therapist if that’s what it’s meant for.

The little beads can defeat me. The idea is to place them in a bowl and then pick them up using your thumb and the different fingers one at a time. At first, I was using my long nails to pick them up. Once I realized what I was doing, I cut my nails. It is surprising to me to realize how weak some of my fingers are as compared to how strong others are.

The mesh has a bead in it. You move it back and forth from one end of the mesh to the other, using each finger plus your thumb individually. Of course, this one feels really good on the toes, legs, fingers, and arms because it’s a soft mesh (but not as soft as the mesh on the net ball).

The snake is a long piece of soft rubber. Before I execute the usual rubbing on the toes, legs, fingers, and arms, I use it the way you use an elastic band for stretching across your chest. It is more flexible than you’d think.

Not part of my bag of tricks – I mean therapy toys – is the foot roller. This is another therapy toy I bought on Amazon after trying one out at an occupational therapy treatment.  Have you ever heard the expression ‘hurts so good?’ That’s what this feels like while you roll it back and forth under your feet. Lest you get me wrong, it does not hurt enough to make you want to stop, just enough to make those tingly feet tingle even more.

I also do stretching exercises for my hands, place my feet in rice, and try to pick up a wash cloth with my toes. It takes a long time to exercise, but I think it’s worth it.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

That Looks Swollen       

Remember I mentioned that several readers have asked questions that would become blogs? For example, one reader’s question became last week’s blog concerning creatinine and PTH. Another reader’s question became this week’s blog about lymphedema. She was diagnosed with it and wondered if it had anything to do with her protein buildup.

She’s a long time reader and online friend, so she already knows I remind those that ask questions that I am not a doctor and, no matter what I discover, she must speak with her nephrologist before taking any action based on what I wrote. That is always true. I’m a CKD patient just like you. The only difference is that I know how to research (Teaching college level Research Writing taught me a lot.) and happen to have been a writer for decades before I was diagnosed. Just take a look at my Amazon Author Page at amazon.com/author/gailraegarwood . But enough about me.

Anyone know what lymphedema is? I didn’t when I first heard the word, although my Hunter College of C.U.N.Y education as an English teacher gave me some clues. Edema had something to do with swelling under the skin. Actually, we can get more specific with The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/-edema :

“suffix meaning swelling resulting from an excessive accumulation of serous fluid in the tissues of the body in (specified) locations”

I took a guess that lymph had to do with the lymph nodes. Using the same dictionary, but this time at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/lymph, I found this:

“The almost colourless fluid that bathes body tissues and is found in the lymphatic vessels that drain the tissues of the fluid that filters across the blood vessel walls from blood. Lymph carries antibodies and lymphocytes (white blood cells that help fight infection) that have entered the lymph nodes from the blood.”

Time to attach the suffix (group of letters added at the end of a word that changes its meaning) to the root (most basic meaning of the word) to come up with a definition of lymphedema. No, not my definition, the same dictionary’s.

“Swelling, especially in subcutaneous tissues, as a result of obstruction of lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes, with accumulation of lymph in the affected region.”

I found this definition at https://www.thefreedictionary.com/lymphedema, but if you switch the search options at the top of the page from dictionary to medical dictionary, you’ll find quite a bit of information about lymphedema.

Okay, we know what lymphedema is now but what – if anything – does that have to do with protein buildup? This is the closest I could come to an answer that

  1. Wasn’t too medical for me to understand and
  2. Had anything to do with the kidneys.

“A thorough medical history and physical examination are done to rule out other causes of limb swelling, such as edema due to congestive heart failure, kidney failure, blood clots, or other conditions.”

It’s from MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/lymphedema/article.htm#how_is_lymphedema_diagnosed

My friend, while a Chronic Kidney Disease patient, is not in renal failure. Was there something I missed?

Johns Hopkins Medicine at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/treating-lymphedema gives us our first clue. It seems that lymphedema is a buildup of a specific fluid: protein-rich:

“Lymphedema is an abnormal buildup of protein-rich fluid in any part of the body as a result of malfunction in the lymphatic system.”

Malfunction in the lymphatic system? What could cause that? According to Lymphatic Education & Research at https://lymphaticnetwork.org/living-with-lymphedema/lymphatic-disease:

Secondary Lymphedema (acquired regional lymphatic insufficiency) is a disease that is common among adults and children in the United States. It can occur following any trauma, infection or surgery that disrupts the lymphatic channels or results in the loss of lymph nodes. Among the more than 3 million breast cancer survivors alone, acquired or secondary lymphedema is believed to be present in approximately 30% of these individuals, predisposing them to the same long-term problems as described above. Lymphedema also results from prostate, uterine, cervical, abdominal, orthopedic cosmetic (liposuction) and other surgeries, malignant melanoma, and treatments used for both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Radiation, sports injuries, tattooing, and any physical insult to the lymphatic pathways can also cause lymphedema. Even though lymphatic insufficiency may not immediately present at the time any of the events occur, these individuals are at life-long risk for the onset of lymphedema.”

I know the reader who has asked the question has a complex medical history that may include one or more of the conditions listed above. As for the protein buildup, we already know that kidneys which are

not working well don’t filter the protein from your blood as well as they could. So, is there a connection between this reader’s protein buildup and her lymphedema? Sure looks like it.

While the following is from BreastCancer.org at https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/lymphedema/how/start, it is a simple explanation that may apply to other causes of lymphedema, too:

“… lymph nodes and vessels can’t keep up with the tissues’ need to get rid of extra fluid, proteins (Gail here: my bolding), and waste.… the proteins and wastes do not get filtered out of the lymph as efficiently as they once did. Very gradually, waste and fluid build up…. “

Ready for a topic change? The World Health Organization offers this pictograph for our information. Notice diabetes, one of the main causes of Chronic Kidney Disease.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Which Comes First?

Periodically, a blog will actually be the response to a reader’s question. I’ve received several questions lately. The first thing I do when I receive a question is to be sure the reader understands that I am not a doctor and that no matter what I research for them, they must clear the information with their nephrologist before taking any action. Today’s question was asked by a long time reader who already understands my terms for researching for her.

That’s a pretty big build up for a common sense question. But, at least now you understand how I handle reader questions and may want to ask one (or more) of your own.

Back to the question at hand: What is the connection between PTH and creatinine and which causes a problem with the other?

What’s PTH, you ask. Let’s find out. You and your Hormones: an educational source from the Society of Endocrinology at https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/parathyroid-hormone/ was a great deal of help here:

“Alternative names for parathyroid hormone

PTH; parathormone; parathyrin

What is parathyroid hormone?

The parathyroid glands are located in the neck, just behind the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland.

Parathyroid hormone is secreted from four parathyroid glands, which are small glands in the neck, located behind the thyroid gland. Parathyroid hormone regulates calcium levels in the blood, largely by increasing the levels when they are too low. It does this through its actions on the kidneys, bones and intestine:

  1. Bones – parathyroid hormone stimulates the release of calcium from large calcium stores in the bones into the bloodstream. This increases bone destruction and decreases the formation of new bone.
  2. Kidneys – parathyroid hormone reduces loss of calcium in urine. Parathyroid hormone also stimulates the production of active vitamin D in the kidneys.
  3. Intestine – parathyroid hormone indirectly increases calcium absorption from food in the intestine, via its effects on vitamin D metabolism

Got it? Okay then let’s remind ourselves what creatinine is. I wrote the following in last December 24th’s blog:

“A good place to start is always at the beginning. By this, I wonder if I mean the beginning of my Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy as the author of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and the blog or if I mean the basics about creatinine. Let’s combine them all. The following definition is from the book which became the earliest blogs:

Creatinine clearance: Compares the creatinine level in your urine with that in your blood to provide information about your kidney function’

Hmmm, that didn’t exactly work. Let’s try again. Bingo! It was in SlowItDownCKD 2014,

Creatinine: chemical waste product that’s produced by our muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat. {MayoClinic.org}”

That was nine years ago, but the information remains the same today.

So now, we know what both PTH and creatinine are, but what’s the connection? According to VIVO Pathophysiology, Colorado State University at http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/endocrine/thyroid/pth.html :

Suppression of calcium loss in urine: In addition to stimulating fluxes of calcium into blood from bone and intestine, parathyroid hormone puts a brake on excretion of calcium in urine, thus conserving calcium in blood. This effect is mediated by stimulating tubular reabsorption of calcium. Another effect of parathyroid hormone on the kidney is to stimulate loss of phosphate ions in urine.”

To recap so far, we know what both PTH and creatinine are and what the connection between the two is. Now we need to know if one causes the other and, if so, which.

Chronic kidney failure. Your kidneys convert vitamin D into a form that your body can use. If your kidneys function poorly, usable vitamin D may decline and calcium levels drop. Chronic kidney failure is the most common cause of secondary hyperparathyroidism.”

Thank you to the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperparathyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20356194 for this information.

 

Whoops! You may need a few reminders to understand the Mayo Clinic’s information, so here they are. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium properly. Calcium is necessary for strong bones and teeth. Many people don’t know it’s also necessary for blood clotting, nerves and heart. “Hyper” means over or, in this case, high as in above the necessary. Remember that when calcium or vitamin D is low, PTH rises. In my mind’s eye, I see a scale balancing the two out.

I did not find any information about PTH causing high creatinine. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any. It just means there isn’t any I could access. I found a journal site that looked promising, but it turned out to be for endocrinologists only. Too bad for us.

I do hope I’ve answered my reader’s question to her satisfaction. I know I enjoyed learning all this new information. You’re right: that’s my signal for a topic change.

“The Kidney Project is a national research initiative with a goal to create a small, surgically implanted, and free-standing bioartificial kidney to treat renal failure. RSN Founder and President Lori Hartwell catches up with Dr. Shuvo Roy who is a bioengineer professor at the University of California San Francisco to learn what is next for the Kidney Project and when clinical trials might begin. Dr. Shuvo Roy is passionate about this device that will mimic the kidneys and take the place of dialysis. Listen in to this exciting and hopeful show.

Listen in to the first conversation about the Kidney Project with Dr. Shuvo Roy.

 Learn more about the Kidney Project and Dr. Shuvo Roy

It’s an exciting time in the world of Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness right now. Even the government has acknowledged it’s time to deal with CKD patients. Keep on the lookout for more and more updates.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

What’s That Got to Do with My Occupation?

I’ve written about neuropathy, but what is this occupational therapy that may treat it? I know about physical therapy and have made use of it when necessary. Remember a few years ago when knee surgery was indicated? Physical therapy helped me avoid the surgery.

This time I was offered gabapentin for the neuropathy. That’s a drug usually used for epilepsy which can also help with neuropathy. I would explain how it works, but no one seems to know. I had two problems with this drug:

  1. Gabapentin became a controlled substance in England as of April of this year. England always seem to be one step ahead of the U.S. re medications.
  2. It is not suggested if you have kidney disease.

My other option was occupational therapy. That’s the one I chose. Let’s backtrack a bit for a definition of occupational therapy. Thank you to my old buddy (since college over 50 years ago) the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/occupational%20therapy for the following definition.

“therapy based on engagement in meaningful activities of daily life (such as self-care skills, education, work, or social interaction) especially to enable or encourage participation in such activities despite impairments or limitations in physical or mental functioning”

That got me to wondering just how occupational therapy differed from physical therapy, the kind of therapy with which I was already familiar. I went to my old buddy again, but this time at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/physical%20therapy for any hints I could pick up from the definition for physical therapy.

“therapy for the preservation, enhancement, or restoration of movement and physical function impaired or threatened by disease, injury, or disability that utilizes therapeutic exercise, physical modalities (such as massage and electrotherapy), assistive devices, and patient education and training”

Made sense to me. Physical therapy was for the movement of the body, while occupational therapy was to help you carry out the tasks of your daily life. For example, it takes me longer to write a blog because my tingling, yet numb, fingers often slip into the spaces between the keys on the keyboard. Another example is that I now use a cane since I can’t tell if my tingling, yet numb, feet are flat on the floor as I walk.

Something I found interesting about occupational therapy is that it uses many forms of therapy that were once considered alternative medicine… like electrical energy. What’s that you say? You’d like an example?

Well, here you go. My therapist uses a machine called a Havimat. The following is from the National Stem Cell Institute at https://nsistemcell.com/hivamat-how-it-relieves-edema/  and explains what the Havimat can do and how.

“….The therapist connects an electronic lead to his/her wrist while the patient grasps a small cylinder grip. The vinyl gloves that the therapist wears prevents the circuit of electric current from closing, thus creating the ‘push-pull’ effect that penetrates deeply into tissues. Meanwhile, the patient’s experience is one of a pleasant, deep massage maintained by the therapist’s gentle pressure as he/she directs the deep oscillation.

…. The therapy “un-dams” trapped fluid. Tissues are decongested and edema is significantly reduced. This shrinks swelling in the area being treated. Hivamat has been shown to be exceptionally effective in relieving lymphedema when used by therapists to enhance manual lymphatic drainage.

…. Besides the reduction of edema, therapists use Hivamat for ridding tissues of toxins [Gail here: like chemotherapy.]  When used by a certified therapist during a manipulation technique known as manual lymphatic drainage, the therapy improves lymph fluid movement. This encourages better flow through the lymphatic system, which then carries away metabolic waste and toxins more quickly. Hivamat also promotes the production of lymphocytes, which improve the function of the immune system. [Gail here again: as CKD patients, our immune systems are compromised.]”

There is one thing, though. Apparently, the Havimat is NOT suggested if there is an active tumor. Uh-oh, I had three treatments with the Havimat before I uncovered that fact. I’ll have to speak with my therapist today and find out why she didn’t know that. But it is clear that using electrical energy as treatment is another case of what was formerly considered alternative medicine becoming mainstream medicine.

Topic switch. I’ve written about the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP), precision care, and clinical trials many times before. You’re probably already aware of the new initiative for patient care. AAKP wants your help in doing their part as far as patient experience with this survey.

“As part of AAKP’s National Strategy, we have expanded our

capacities to involve a far larger, and more representative, number

of patients in research opportunities and clinical trials. The

results of these research opportunities and clinical trials will help

create a clearer understanding of the patient experience and help

shape the future of kidney disease treatment and care. AAKP is

fully committed to changing the status quo of kidney care

and to better aligning treatment to personal aspirations.

To achieve this goal, the AAKP Center for Patient Research &

Education is working with top researchers to ensure that the

patient voice, patient preferences and patient perceptions are

heard.

AAKP is very pleased to partner with Northwestern University

and University of Pennsylvania on an important research

project organ donation.

Please consider taking part in this online survey and help

shape the future of kidney care for you and those yet to

be diagnosed.

Volunteers Needed for Research Study!

Researchers at Northwestern University and University of Penn-

sylvania invite kidney transplant candidates to participate

in a survey about your opinions of research done on donor

organs. Such research aims to help organs work better and

make more organs available for transplantation.

Your responses will help to improve the informed consent

process for transplant candidates.

You are eligible to participate if you:

•  Are 18+ years old

•  Speak English

•  Are currently a transplant candidate on the waitlist for only

    one organ

This anonymous survey is voluntary, and will take about 45

minutes of your time.

Your decision about participating will not affect your place on

the waiting list. Your participation may help improve the informed

consent process for transplant candidates.

Find out more information and take the survey by clicking

the link below [Gail here yet again: Don’t forget to click

control at the same time.]:

https://redcap.nubic.northwestern.edu/redcap/surveys/index.php?s=TEMXLDLF8A

Thank you to those taking part in the survey for helping

AAKP help those awaiting a transplant.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not Nuked

Friday, I saw my oncology radiologist after having had a week of radiation treatments. As he was explaining what the radiation was meant to do to the remaining third of the tumor and how it was being done, one sentence he uttered stood out to me: “This doesn’t work like your microwave.”

Since radiation is also used in treating kidney cancer… and any other kind of cancer, to the best of my knowledge… I decided to take a look at that statement. First we need to know how a microwave works, so we know how radiation treatment for cancer doesn’t work. I went to the Health Sciences Academy at https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/microwave-radiation/ for an explanation.

“How do microwaves work?

Before we talk about how microwaves heat your food, let’s make a distinction between two very different kinds of radiation:

  1. ionising radiation, and
  2. non-ionising radiation.

Ionising radiation, which can remove tightly-bound electrons from atoms, causing them to become charged, is less risky in very tiny amounts (such as x-rays) but can cause problems when exposure is high (think burns and even DNA damage). However, microwaves emit non-ionising radiation; a type of radiation that has enough energy to move atoms around within a molecule but not enough to remove electrons.

What does this mean? Because the radiation from microwaves is non-ionising, it can only cause molecules in the food to move. …. In other words, microwave radiation cannot alter the chemical structure of food components. More precisely, when heating food in a microwave, the radiation that the microwave produces is actually absorbed by the water molecules in the food. This energy causes the water molecules to vibrate, generating heat through this (harmless) friction, which cooks the food. This mechanism is what makes microwaves much faster at heating food than other methods. Its energy immediately reaches molecules that are about an inch below the outer surface of the food, whereas heat from other cooking methods moves into food gradually via conduction….”

Phew, I’m glad to know I’m not being cooked from the inside. But what is happening to me and everyone else who has radiation as a cancer treatment? I went straight to the American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/radiation/basics.html  for the answer.

“Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, [Gail here: this is ionising radiation.] gamma rays, electron beams, or protons, to destroy or damage cancer cells.

Your cells normally grow and divide to form new cells. But cancer cells grow and divide faster than most normal cells. Radiation works by making small breaks in the DNA inside cells. These breaks keep cancer cells from growing and dividing and cause them to die. Nearby normal cells can also be affected by radiation, but most recover and go back to working the way they should.

Unlike chemotherapy, which usually exposes the whole body to cancer-fighting drugs, radiation therapy is usually a local treatment. In most cases, it’s aimed at and affects only the part of the body being treated. Radiation treatment is planned to damage cancer cells, with as little harm as possible to nearby healthy cells.

Some radiation treatments (systemic radiation therapy) use radioactive substances that are given in a vein or by mouth. Even though this type of radiation does travel throughout the body, the radioactive substance mostly collects in the area of the tumor, so there’s little effect on the rest of the body.”

I don’t know how many times this was explained to me, but seeing it now in black and white (and blue for the click through) suddenly makes it clear. So this means I’ve had four months of my entire body being attacked – in a lifesaving way, of course – now only the cancer cells are being attacked.

Yet, I am experiencing some side effects even after only one week of radiation. I wondered if that’s usual. Cancer.net at https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/radiation-therapy/side-effects-radiation-therapy   answered that question for me.

“Why does radiation therapy cause side effects?

High doses of radiation therapy are used to destroy cancer cells. Side effects come from damage to healthy cells and tissues near the treatment area. Major advances in radiation therapy have made it more precise. This reduces the side effects.

Some people experience few side effects from radiation therapy. Or even none. Other people experience more severe side effects.

Reactions to the radiation therapy often start during the second or third week of treatment. They may last for several weeks after the final treatment.

Are there options to prevent or treat these side effects?

Yes. Your health care team can help you prevent or treat many side effects. Preventing and treating side effects is an important part of cancer treatment. This is called palliative care or supportive care.

Potential side effects

Radiation therapy is a local treatment. This means that it only affects the area of the body where the tumor is located. For example, people do not usually lose their hair from having radiation therapy. But radiation therapy to the scalp may cause hair loss.

Common side effects of radiation therapy include:

Skin problems. Some people who receive radiation therapy experience dryness, itching, blistering, or peeling. These side effects depend on which part of the body received radiation therapy. Skin problems usually go away a few weeks after treatment ends. If skin damage becomes a serious problem, your doctor may change your treatment plan.

Fatigue. Fatigue describes feeling tired or exhausted almost all the time. Your level of fatigue often depends on your treatment plan. For example, radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy may result in more fatigue. Learn more about how to cope with fatigue.

Long-term side effects. Most side effects go away after treatment. But some continue, come back, or develop later. These are called late effects. One example is the development of a second cancer. This is a new type of cancer that develops because of the original cancer treatment. The risk of this late effect is low. And the risk is often smaller than the benefit of treating the primary, existing cancer.”

Funny how I managed to forget about late effects, even though my oncology team made it clear this could happen. I think having the radiation to rid myself of this cancer is worth the risk.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Platelets, Blood, and RSNHope or a Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

A reader from India asked me why I kept writing about chemotherapy. I explained that I have pancreatic cancer and that was part of my treatment. Chronic Kidney Disease patients may develop kidney cancer, although this type of cancer is not restricted to CKD patients. They also may develop another type of cancer that has nothing to do with the kidneys. Everyone’s experience with chemotherapy is different, but I thought one person’s experience was better than none. Here’s hoping you never have to deal with any kind of cancer or chemotherapy, however.

While we’re on explanations, I have a correction to make. The nurses at the Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute here in Arizona are a fount of knowledge. One of them heard me talking to my daughter about a platelet infusion and corrected me. It seems it’s a platelet transfusion, just as it’s a blood transfusion.

According to The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/infusion

“in·fu·sion

(in-fyū’zhŭn),

  1. The process of steeping a substance in water, either cold or hot (below the boiling point), to extract its soluble principles.
  2. A medicinal preparation obtained by steeping the crude drug in water.
  3. The introduction of fluid other than blood, for example, saline solution, into a vein.”

The same dictionary, but at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/transfusion , tells us:

“Transfusion is the process of transferring whole blood or blood components from one person (donor) to another (recipient).”

Therein lays the difference. Platelets are part of the blood, so it’s a platelet transfusion. I’m glad that’s straightened out.

While we’re on this topic, here’s a chart of compatible blood types for transfusions… always a handy thing to have.

Blood Type of Recipient Preferred Blood Type of Donor If Preferred Blood Type Unavailable, Permissible Blood Type of Donor
A A O
B B O
AB AB A, B, O
O O No alternate types

O is the universal blood type and, as you’ve probably noticed, is compatible with all blood types. The plus or minus sign after your blood type refers to being RH negative or positive. For example, my blood type is B+. That means I have type B blood and am RH positive.

I’ve had platelet transfusions several times since I was leaking blood here and there. Nothing like eating lunch and having nasal blood drip into your salad. Ugh! You also become weak and your hemoglobin goes down. Not a good situation at all. You know I’m hoping you never need one, but who knows what can happen in the future. Just in case you’ve forgotten what platelets are, Macmillan Cancer Support at https://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/treating/supportive-and-other-treatments/supportive-therapies/platelet-transfusions.html#18772 is here to help us out.

“Platelets are tiny cells in your blood which form clots to help stop bleeding. They develop from stem cells in the bone marrow (the spongy material inside the bones). They are then released from your bone marrow into your blood and travel around your body in your bloodstream. Platelets usually survive for 7–10 days before being destroyed naturally in your body or being used to clot the blood.”

You’ll probably notice the term “RH Positive” (unless you’re RH Negative, of course) written on the platelet transfusion bag. You know I had to find out why.  Memorial Sloan Cancer Center at https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/frequently-asked-questions-about-blood-transfusion offers this information about your blood that will help us understand:

“Your blood type is either A, B, AB, or O. It’s either Rh positive (+) or Rh negative (-).

Your blood type is checked with a test called a type and crossmatch. The results of this test are used to match your blood type with the blood in our blood bank. Your healthcare provider will check to make sure that the blood is the correct match for you before they give you the transfusion.”

The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/rh-factor/about/pac-20394960 clarifies just what Rh Positive means:

“Rhesus (Rh) factor is an inherited protein found on the surface of red blood cells. If your blood has the protein, you’re Rh positive. If your blood lacks the protein, you’re Rh negative.

Rh positive is the most common blood type. Having an Rh negative blood type is not an illness and usually does not affect your health. However, it can affect your pregnancy. “

What I found especially interesting is that,

“If you have Rh-positive blood, you can get Rh-positive or Rh-negative blood. But if you have Rh-negative blood, you should only get Rh-negative blood. Rh-negative blood is used for emergencies when there’s no time to test a person’s Rh type.”

Thank you to Health Jade at https://healthjade.net/blood-transfusion/#Rh_Rhesus_factor for this information. This is a new site for me. You might want to take a look since their illustrations make so much clear.

Switching topics now. Are you aware of RSNHope.org? Lori Hartwell is one of the most active CKD and dialysis people I’ve met in the entire nine years I’ve been writing about CKD. For example, she has this wonderful salad bar help for the renal diet:

“Choose:  lettuce escarole, endive, alfalfa sprouts, celery sticks, cole slaw, cauliflower, cucumbers, green beans, green peas, green peppers, radishes, zucchini, better, eggs (chopped), tuna in spring water, parmesan cheese, Chinese noodles, gelatin salads, Italian low calorie dressing, vinaigrette, low fat dressing.

Avoid:  avocado, olives, raisins, tomatoes, pickles, bacon bits, chickpeas, kidney beans nuts, shredded cheddar cheese, three bean salads, sunflower seeds, Chow Mein noodles, fried bread croutons, potato salad, thick salad dressing, relishes”

What could be easier than printing this out and sticking it in your wallet? But Lori is not just about the renal diet. She also posts CKD & dialysis podcasts at KidneyTalk 24/7 Podcast Radio Show. All this and more are on the website. I must admit I look forward to the RSNHope magazine each quarter.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Diabetic Neuropathy or Not: I WILL Dance Again

I come from a family of dancers. My parents and their siblings were all light on their feet and danced from the time they were teens right up until just before their deaths. It was a delight to watch them. The tradition continued with me… and my youngest who actually taught blues dancing for several years.

Ah, but then my neuropathy appeared. This was years before the diabetes diagnosis. Hmmm, there’s still a question as to whether or not the diabetes was caused by the pancreatic cancer. After all, the pancreas does produce insulin.

I just reread the above two paragraphs and see so much that needs some basic explanation. Let’s start with those explanations this week. How many of you know what neuropathy is? I didn’t either until I was diagnosed with it. According to my favorite dictionary since college a million years ago, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neuropathy defines neuropathy as:

“damage, disease, or dysfunction of one or more nerves especially of the peripheral nervous system that is typically marked by burning or shooting pain, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness or atrophy, is often degenerative, and is usually caused by injury, infection, disease, drugs, toxins, or vitamin deficiency “

If you clicked though on ‘peripheral nervous system’ in the dictionary definition, you know it means,

“the part of the nervous system that is outside the central nervous system and comprises the cranial nerves excepting the optic nerve, the spinal nerves, and the autonomic nervous system”

Since the neuropathy was so minor before the pancreatic cancer, I wasn’t even aware of it until my neurologist did some testing. I knew my feet were tingly sometimes, but I thought they had fallen asleep. It did sort of feel like that.

Then, I started chemotherapy in March. The tingling became so bad that I couldn’t feel my feet under me and had to rely on a cane to keep my balance. We thought it was the chemo drugs causing the neuropathy. Uh-oh, that was just about when my hands became affected, too, and my A1C (Remember that one? It’s the blood test for the average of your blood glucose over a three month period.) rose all the way to 7.1.

Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/ac1-test#understanding-the-results tells us,

“Someone without diabetes will have about 5 percent of their hemoglobin glycated [Gail here: that means glucose bonded to hemoglobin]. A normal A1C level is 5.6 percent or below, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

A level of 5.7 to 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes. People with diabetes have an A1C level of 6.5 percent or above.”

Mind you, during chemotherapy I’d been ordered to eat whatever I could. Getting in the calories would cut down on the expected weight loss. In all honesty, I’m the only person I know what gained weight while on chemotherapy.

Now, what is this about the pancreas producing insulin? Might as well get a definition of insulin while we’re at it. MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3989 offered the simplest explanation:

“A natural hormone made by the pancreas that controls the level of the sugar glucose in the blood. Insulin permits cells to use glucose for energy. Cells cannot utilize glucose without insulin.”

That would explain why my energy is practically nil, but it also seems to indicate that I won’t be able to do anything about it until after the surgery to remove the tumor. Although, when I start radiation next week, I may be able to go back to the diabetic diet. By the way, after following the Chronic Kidney Disease diet for 11 years, none of the new – off the CKD diet – foods I tried are appealing to me.

But I digress. So, what now? I need to dance; it’s part of who I am. My oncologist referred me to Occupational Therapy. Now I have exercises and tactile surfaces to explore that may be helpful. But what about those who are not going through chemotherapy, but do have diabetic neuropathy? Remember diabetes is the number cause of CKD.

Oh, my goodness. It looks like there are as many ways to treat neuropathy as there are different kinds of neuropathy. I hadn’t expected that. EverydayHealth at https://www.everydayhealth.com/neuropathy/guide/treatment/ gives us an idea of just how complicated choosing the proper treatment for your neuropathy can be:

What Are the Main Ways That Neuropathy Is Treated?

Treating neuropathy in general focuses first on identifying and then addressing the underlying condition to help prevent further damage and give nerves the time they need to heal to the extent that they can.

“The treatment for the neuropathy is to reverse whatever it is that is causing the neuropathy,” says Clifford Segil, DO, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “We try to reverse the insult to the nerves first and then do symptomatic control.”

For people with diabetic neuropathy, the first step physicians take is getting the person’s blood glucose level under control, says Matthew Villani, DPM, a podiatrist at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Florida.

This treatment approach aims to remove the “insult” created by the excess sugar to peripheral nerves throughout the body — but especially the extremities, Dr. Segil explains.

Here are some other ways diabetic neuropathy may be treated:

  • Numbness or complete loss of sensation can lead to complications such as ulcers, sores, and limb amputations. It is addressed by monitoring the affected areas — often the feet — for injuries and addressing wounds before they become more serious, as well as prescribing protective footwear and braces.
  • Orthostatic hypotension (a drop in blood pressure upon standing up), which is an autonomic symptom, can be treated with increased sodium intake, a vasopressor such as ProAmatine (midodrine) to constrict blood vessels, a synthetic mineralocorticoid such as fludrocortisone to help maintain the balance of salt in the body, or a cholinesterase inhibitor such as pyridostigmine, which affects neurotransmitters.
  • Gastroparesis, a delayed emptying of the stomach, is another autonomic symptom, which can be treated with medication to control nausea and vomiting, such as Reglan (metoclopramide), Ery-Tab (erythromycin), antiemetics, and antidepressants, as well as pain medication for abdominal discomfort.
  • Motor neuropathy symptoms can include weakness and muscle wasting, particularly in the lower extremities, as well as deformities of the feet and loss of the Achilles’ heel tendon reflex. Treatments can include physical therapy to regain strength, as well as braces and orthotics.

I’ve got to think about this. Any questions? Well, then,

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Platelets Keep It Together

During my chemo journey, I’ve needed an infusion of platelets several times. Chronic Kidney Disease patients sometimes need them, too, but I’ll write about that later on in this blog. First question from the audience?

Oh, that’s a good one: What are platelets? This is from my very first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and will help to explain.

“1. The white blood cells makeup your immune system. There are usually from 7,000 to 25,000 WBC in a drop of blood, but if you have an infection, that number rises since these are the infection fighting blood cells.

2. The red blood cells, also called erythrocytes, carry oxygen to the other cells in your body – so the higher the number here the better – and waste such as carbon dioxide from them. There are approximately five billion red blood cells – the midsized cells – in a single drop of your blood.

3. The platelets deal with the blood’s clotting ability by repairing leaks in your blood vessels. Normally, there are 150,000 to 350,000 platelets in one drop of blood.”

I’ve included all three types of blood cells as we just might need that information later on.

Okay, how about another question? What’s that? You want to know how you know if your platelets are decreased? When you have blood tests, one of them is usually the CBC or Complete Blood Count. Let’s see if we can find more information from The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/complete-blood-count/about/pac-20384919.

“A complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test used to evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of disorders, including anemia, infection and leukemia.

A complete blood count test measures several components and features of your blood, including:

Red blood cells, which carry oxygen

White blood cells, which fight infection

Hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells

Hematocrit, the proportion of red blood cells to the fluid component, or plasma, in your blood

Platelets, which help with blood clotting”

If your doctors are anything like mine, I have one every three months for my primary care doctor, an annual CBC for my nephrologist, and weekly for my oncologist.

Now, remember the normal range of platelets is 150,000 to 350,000 platelets in one drop of blood. Mine were 16,000. Sure, it was the chemotherapy that was killing my platelets, but it was also the chemotherapy that was shrinking the tumor and lowering the tumor markers in my CA19-9 (blood test for tumor markers in pancreatic cancer). I couldn’t stop the chemotherapy, but my doctors could raise my platelets via infusion.

Young man in the back? Nice! He wants to know what the difference between infusion and transfusion is.  According to The Free Dictionary’s Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/infusion, infusion means

1. the steeping of a substance in water to obtain its soluble principles.

2. the product obtained by this process.

3. the slow therapeutic introduction of fluid other than blood into a vein.

That’s right. The third definition is the one we need.

Using the same source, this time at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/transfusion, we learn that transfusion means

“Transfusion is the process of transferring whole blood or blood components from one person (donor) to another (recipient).”

By the way, there’s quite a bit of other information about transfusions on this page.

Let’s talk about platelet infusions and CKD patients now. UpToDate at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/platelet-dysfunction-in-uremia  offers the following, but we may need a bit of hand holding to understand it:

“The association between renal dysfunction and bleeding was recognized more than 200 years ago…. However, there remains an incomplete understanding of the underlying pathophysiology. Impaired platelet function is one of the main determinants of uremic bleeding. This impairment is due largely to incompletely defined inhibitors of platelet function in the plasma of patients with markedly reduced kidney function. Abnormal platelet-endothelial interaction and anemia also play a role.”

Do you remember what uremic means? No problem … come along with me to visit my old buddy, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uremia

“1accumulation in the blood of constituents normally eliminated in the urine that produces a severe toxic condition and usually occurs in severe kidney disease

2: the toxic bodily condition associated with uremia”

Let’s use the same dictionary, this time at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/endothelial, for the definition of endothelial, which is the adjective or describing word for endothelium.

“1: an epithelium of mesodermal origin composed of a single layer of thin flattened cells that lines internal body cavities and the lumens of vessels

2: the inner layer of the seed coat of some plants”

You guessed it: the first definition is the one we need. I think all the pieces are in place for you to understand the need for the right number of platelets and that platelet infusions are sometimes necessary. Too bad I didn’t before my white blouses and nightgowns were stained by the blood leaking from my nose (and other places too delicate to mention). Oh well, I can always buy more clothes.

New topic. I’ve written about All of Us Research several times and received this email from them this week.

“In case you missed it, we introduced our new Data Browser at the All of Us Research Program symposium on May 6th. The Data Browser is an interactive tool that lets you learn more about the health data that you and all the other participants have contributed so far. Currently in beta testing, it lets you search by topics like health conditions, survey questions, and physical measurements, and will include more data over time.

 We invite you to take a look at the Data Browser and let us know what you think. If you have feedback, you can email support@ResearchAllofUs.org.”

The URL for the Data Browser is https://databrowser.researchallofus.org.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Like Life?

A word I hear every few weeks at chemotherapy is Neulasta. I looked it up since I was being given an injection each time I heard the word. I went directly to the manufacturer’s website at https://www.neulasta.com/learn-about-neulasta/ to find out just what it was:

“Neulasta® is a prescription medicine used to help reduce the chance of infection due to a low white blood cell count, in people with certain types of cancer (non-myeloid), who receive anti-cancer medicines (chemotherapy) that can cause fever and low blood cell count.”

But then I needed to define ‘non-myeloid’ for myself. No problem. I called up my old standby The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/nonmyeloid:

“not being, involving, or affecting bone marrow”

Okay, got it. Neulasta reduces low white blood cell count infection in cancer that doesn’t affect the bone marrow. By the way, this is accomplished by forcing white blood cells – the infection fighting blood cells – to mature quickly.

No sooner did I get that straight in my mind than I started hearing a different word: Udenyca. It turned out that Udenya is a biosimilar for Neulasta. Now we get to the meat of the matter.

Just what is a biosimilar? I took a former English teacher’s stab at the definition and decided it meant ‘like life.’ But does it? The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/biosimilarity helped us out here:

“biosimilar

(bī′ō-sĭm′ə-lər)

adj.

Highly similar in function and effect to an existing biological product,

especially to a biologic that has al-ready been clinically tested and approved for use.

n.

A biological product that is biosimilar to an existing product,

especially to a biologic”

Keep in mind that an adjective (adj.) describes a noun, while a noun (n.) is a person, place, thing, or idea.

Frankly, I didn’t find this very helpful. So I did what I considered the logical thing and looked to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website at https://www.fda.gov/media/108905/download for more explanation:

“A biosimilar is a biological product

FDA-approved biosimilars have been compared to an FDA-approved biologic, known as the reference product. Reference and biosimilar products are:

Large and generally complex molecules

Produced from living organisms

Carefully monitored to ensure consistent quality

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety

A biosimilar is highly similar to a reference product

For approval, the structure and function of an approved biosimilar were compared to a reference product, looking at key characteristics such as:

Purity

Molecular structure

Bioactivity

The data from these comparisons must show that the biosimilar is highly similar to the reference product.

A biosimilar has no clinically meaningful differences from a reference product

Studies were performed to show that biosimilars have no clinically meaningful differences in safety, purity or potency (safety and effectiveness) compared to the reference product:

Pharmacokinetic and, if needed, armacodynamic studies

Immunogenicity assessment

Additional clinical studies as needed

Studies may be done independently or combined.

A biosimilar is approved by FDA after rigorous evaluation and testing by the applicant

Prescribers and patients should have no concerns about using these medications instead of reference products because biosimilars:

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety”

Okay! Now we’re talking. Pretty simple to understand, isn’t it? Well, maybe there’s a word or three we might need defined. Let’s take another look. These two definitions are from Dictionary.com.

“Pharmacokinetic – the branch of pharmacology that studies the fate of pharmacological substances in thebody, as their absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination.

Immunogenicity – causing or capable of producing an immune response.”

Wikipedia offered this interesting difference between Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamics.

“Pharmacodynamics is the study of how a drug affects an organism, whereas pharmacokinetics is the study of how the organism affects the drug. Both together influence dosing, benefit, and adverse effects.”

The point here is that the synthetic drug and biosimilars are not the same. Maybe my guess at their definition is far off the mark.  And lest you’re beginning to think this is a cancer blog rather than a Chronic Kidney Disease blog, biosimilars are used in CKD, too.

This snippet from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) at https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/early/2018/08/03/CJN.01980218 will give you the idea:

“Most recognizable to nephrologists is the biologic recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO). Considerably more expensive to develop and produce, biologics are more structurally complex than small-molecule drugs. By 2020, biologics will constitute an estimated 27% of spending on worldwide pharmacologics.”

Remember erythropoietin, more commonly known among CKD patients as epo? Not to worry; MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/erythropoietin/article.htm will remind us:

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone produced by the kidney that promotes the formation of red blood cells by the bone marrow. The kidney cells that make erythropoietin are sensitive to low oxygen levels in the blood that travels through the kidney.”

Un-oh, I almost forgot to explain the difference between biosimilars and biologics. According to the Congressional Research Service at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44620.pdf:

“A biological product, or biologic, is a preparation, such as a drug or a vaccine, that is made from living organisms. Compared with conventional chemical drugs, biologics are relatively large and complex molecules. They may be composed of proteins (and/or their constituent amino acids), carbohydrates (such as sugars), nucleic acids (such as DNA), or combinations of these substances.

Biologics may also be cells or tissues used in transplantation. A biosimilar, sometimes referred to as a follow-on biologic, is a therapeutic drug that is highly similar but not structurally identical, to a brand-name biologic (i.e., the reference product). This is in contrast to a generic chemical drug, which is an exact copy of a brand-name chemical drug (i.e., the reference listed drug). Because biologics are more complex than chemical drugs, both in composition and method of manufacture, biosimilars will not be exact replicas of the brand-name product, but may instead be shown to be highly similar. However, for many years, the drug industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have coped with the inherent variability in biological products from natural sources. FDA maintains that the batch-to-batch and lot-to-lot variability that occurs for both brand-name biologics and biosimilars can be assessed and managed effectively.”

Hmmm, looks like I’ve made a fairly simple concept terribly complex.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

More Time to Learn

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired in my life. Cancer does that… and it leaves me a lot of time in bed to explore whatever I’d like to on the internet. So now I’m discovering all these – what’s the word? – possibly peripheral? diseases that affect the kidneys. For example, while I don’t have the energy to post a new Chronic Kidney Disease picture on Instagram every day, I do check the site daily and like what appeals to me and learn from what’s new to me.

That’s where I noticed posts about Bartter syndrome. If you’re like me, you want to know about something you’ve never heard of before. Let’s explore this together.

I went directly to my old friend, MedlinePlus, which is part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000308.htm for a definition and the causes:

“Bartter syndrome is a group of rare conditions that affect the kidneys.

Causes

There are five gene defects known to be associated with Bartter syndrome. The condition is present at birth (congenital). The condition is caused by a defect in the kidneys’ ability to reabsorb sodium. People affected by Bartter syndrome lose too much sodium through the urine. This causes a rise in the level of the hormone aldosterone, and makes the kidneys remove too much potassium from the body. This is known as potassium wasting. The condition also results in an abnormal acid balance in the blood called hypokalemic alkalosis, which causes too much calcium in the urine.”

It looks like there are a few terms here we may now be familiar with. Let’s take a look at aldosterone. The Hormone Health Network from the Endocrine Society at https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/aldosterone tells us:

“Aldosterone is produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys…. Aldosterone affects the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure. It sends the signal to organs, like the kidney and colon, that can increase the amount of sodium the body sends into the bloodstream or the amount of potassium released in the urine. The hormone also causes the bloodstream to re-absorb water with the sodium to increase blood volume. All of these actions are integral to increasing and lowering blood vessels. Indirectly, the hormone also helps maintain the blood’s pH and electrolyte levels.”

And hypokalemic alkalosis? What is that? Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/alkalosis#types  gave me the answer: “Hypokalemic alkalosis Hypokalemic alkalosis occurs when your body lacks the normal amount of the mineral potassium. You normally get potassium from your food, but not eating enough of it is rarely the cause of a potassium deficiency. Kidney disease, excessive sweating, and diarrhea are just a few ways you can lose too much potassium. Potassium is essential to the proper functioning of the:

  • heart
  • kidneys
  • muscles
  • nervous system
  • digestive system”

Hmmm, so kidney disease can cause you to lose too much potassium, which can then interfere with the proper functioning of your kidneys. Doesn’t sound good to me. But, remember that the condition is congenital and will show up at birth.

Let’s say it does. Then what? According to Verywellhealth at https://www.verywellhealth.com/bartter-syndrome-2860757:

“Treatment of Bartter syndrome focuses on keeping the blood potassium at a normal level. This is done by having a diet rich in potassium and taking potassium supplements if needed. There are also drugs that reduce the loss of potassium in the urine, such as spironolactone, triamterene, or amiloride. Other medications used to treat Bartter syndrome may include indomethacin, captopril, and in children, growth hormone.”

Food rich in potassium? I’m sure bananas came directly into your mind but there are others. I chose to use the National Kidney Foundation’s list of high potassium foods at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium since this is a blog about CKD.What foods are high in potassium (greater than 200 milligrams per portion)? The following table lists foods that are high in potassium. The portion size is ½ cup unless otherwise stated. Please be sure to check portion sizes. While all the foods on this list are high in potassium, some are higher than others.

High-Potassium Foods
Fruits Vegetables Other Foods
Apricot, raw (2 medium) dried (5 halves) Acorn Squash Bran/Bran products
Avocado (¼ whole) Artichoke Chocolate (1.5-2 ounces)
Banana (½ whole) Bamboo Shoots Granola
Cantaloupe Baked Beans Milk, all types (1 cup)
Dates (5 whole) Butternut Squash Molasses (1 Tablespoon)
Dried fruits Refried Beans Nutritional Supplements: Use only under the direction of your doctor or dietitian.
Figs, dried Beets, fresh then boiled
Grapefruit Juice Black Beans
Honeydew Broccoli, cooked Nuts and Seeds (1 ounce)
Kiwi (1 medium) Brussels Sprouts Peanut Butter (2 tbs.)
Mango(1 medium) Chinese Cabbage Salt Substitutes/Lite Salt
Nectarine(1 medium) Carrots, raw Salt Free Broth
Orange(1 medium) Dried Beans and Peas Yogurt
Orange Juice Greens, except Kale Snuff/Chewing Tobacco
Papaya (½ whole) Hubbard Squash
Pomegranate (1 whole) Kohlrabi
Pomegranate Juice Lentils
Prunes Legumes
Prune Juice White Mushrooms, cooked (½ cup)
Raisins Okra
Parsnips
Potatoes, white and sweet
Pumpkin
Rutabagas
Spinach, cooked
Tomatoes/Tomato products
Vegetable Juices”

I also have a list of food sensitivities, so I avoid those foods. If you do, too, you might want to cross those foods off your high potassium foods list if you just happen to have Bartter syndrome.

Time for a few personal notes here. Thank you all for your well wishes and good cheer. Via a clinical trial, I have been able to shrink the pancreatic cancer tumor by two thirds and bring my blood tumor marker down to BELOW normal. This raises my chances for a successful Whipple surgery from 50% to 70% and that’s before another round of chemotherapy with radiation added. Hopeful? You bet! I also wanted to remind you that the SlowItDownCKD series makes a wonderful graduation, wedding, and Father’s Day gift for those new to Chronic Kidney Disease, those not new to Chronic Kidney Disease, and those who would like to share CKD with others in their lives.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

No Longer a Transfusion Virgin

I’ve been thinking about the similarities between Chronic Kidney Disease treatment and Pancreatic Cancer treatment… or, at least, my Pancreatic Cancer treatment. Some are superficial, like going to the Research Institute several days a week for chemotherapy and those on dialysis going to the dialysis center several days a week for dialysis.

Some are not. A current topic of similarity was an eye opener for me. I am 72 years old and have never had a transfusion before last Monday. I’d gone to the Research Institute where I’m part of a clinical trial for a simple non-chemotherapy day checkup. This supposedly two hour appointment turned into almost eight hours. Why?

If you can understand these labs, you’ll know. If not, no problem. You know I’ll explain.

Component Your Value Standard Range
  RBC 2.23 10ˆ6/uL 3.50 – 5.40 10ˆ6/uL
Hemoglobin 6.8 g/dL 12.0 – 16.0 g/dL
Hematocrit 19.7 % 36.0 – 48.0 %
RDW 16.0 % 11.5 – 14.5 %
Platelets 15 K/uL 130 – 450 K/uL

Let’s start at the top of the list. RBC stands for red blood cells. MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5260 tells us:

“Red blood cells: The blood cells that carry oxygen. Red cells contain hemoglobin and it is the hemoglobin which permits them to transport oxygen (and carbon dioxide). Hemoglobin, aside from being a transport molecule, is a pigment. It gives the cells their red color (and their name).

The abbreviation for red blood cells is RBCs. Red blood cells are sometime simply called red cells. They are also called erythrocytes or, rarely today, red blood corpuscles.”

So it makes sense that if RBC is below the standard range (column on the right), the hemoglobin will also be. And where are RBCs produced? Let’s trot on over to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Disease (NIKKD) at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/anemia for the answer to that one:

“Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). A hormone is a chemical produced by the body and released into the blood to help trigger or regulate particular body functions. EPO prompts the bone marrow to make red blood cells, which then carry oxygen throughout the body.

What causes anemia in chronic kidney disease?

When kidneys are diseased or damaged, they do not make enough EPO. As a result, the bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells, causing anemia. When blood has fewer red blood cells, it deprives the body of the oxygen it needs.”

Now, this is not saying all CKD patients will have anemia, although it is common is the later stages of the disease. Chemotherapy had a lot to do with this, too.

What about this hematocrit? What is that? I went to the University of Rochester’s Health Encyclopedia at https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=hematocrit for help here:

“This test measures how much of your blood is made up of red blood cells.

Normal blood contains white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, and the fluid portion called plasma. The word hematocrit means to separate. In this test, your red blood cells are separated from the rest of your blood so they can be measured.

Your hematocrit (HCT) shows whether you have a normal amount of red blood cells, too many, or too few. To measure your HCT, your blood sample is spun at a high speed to separate the red blood cells.”

MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321568.php helps us understand the RDW or red cell distribution width:

“If the results of a CBC [Gail here: that’s the complete blood count.] show low levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin, this usually suggests anemia. Doctors will then try to determine the cause of the condition using the RDW and other tests.”

So, we’re back to anemia. By the way, cancer is one of the diseases that can cause high numbers on your RDW. CKD is not, but diabetes – one of the primary causes of CKD – is.

I added platelets to the list since they are such an integral part of your blood. MedLinePlus at https://medlineplus.gov/plateletdisorders.html explains succinctly just what they are and what they do:

“Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are small pieces of blood cells. They form in your bone marrow, a sponge-like tissue in your bones. Platelets play a major role in blood clotting. Normally, when one of your blood vessels is injured, you start to bleed. Your platelets will clot (clump together) to plug the hole in the blood vessel and stop the bleeding. You can have different problems with your platelets:

If your blood has a low number of platelets, it is called thrombocytopenia. This can put you at risk for mild to serious bleeding. The bleeding could be external or internal. There can be various causes. If the problem is mild, you may not need treatment. For more serious cases, you may need medicines or blood or platelet transfusions….”

I had my second infusion of platelets along with my first transfusion last week.

I’ve offered a multitude of definitions today. The point here is that both CKD patients and chemotherapy patients (and others suffering from a host of maladies) may need transfusions.

Right. I haven’t discussed what a transfusion is yet. Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/transfusion defines it a little simplistically for us:

“the direct transferring of blood, plasma, or the like into a blood vessel.”

The MayoClinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/blood-transfusion/about/pac-20385168 adds:

“Your blood will be tested before a transfusion to determine whether your blood type is A, B, AB or O and whether your blood is Rh positive or Rh negative. The donated blood used for your transfusion must be compatible with your blood type.”

That’s when we discovered my son-in-law and I have the same blood type. Nice to know… just in case, you understand.

Before I leave you today, I want to remind my USA readers that this is Memorial Day. Having married a veteran, I now understand that we are honoring those who gave their saves to preserve ours no matter how long ago or how recent. Please give them a moment of your thoughts.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Don’t Know Much about FSGS…

Being on chemotherapy is very tiring, so I stay home a lot and delve into anything that catches my eye, like FSGS. I’ve seen the letters before and had sort of a vague idea of what it might be, but what better time to explore it and whatever it may have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease than now?

Let’s start at the beginning. FSGS is the acronym for focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. Anything look familiar? Maybe the ‘glomerul’ part of glomerulosclerosis? I think we need to know the definition of glomerulosclerosis to be able to answer that question. The National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Congress’s Medline Plus at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000478.htm defines it this way:

“Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis is scar tissue in the filtering unit of the kidney. This structure is called the glomerulus. The glomeruli serve as filters that help the body get rid of harmful substances. Each kidney has thousands of glomeruli.

‘Focal’ means that some of the glomeruli become scarred. Others remain normal. ‘Segmental’ means that only part of an individual glomerulus is damaged.”

So, we do know what the ‘glomerul’ part of glomerulosclerosis means. It refers to the same filters in the kidneys we’ve been discussing for the past eleven years: the glomeruli. This former English teacher can assure you that ‘o’ is simply a connective between the two parts of the word. ‘Sclerosis’ is a term you may have heard of in relation to the disease of the same name, the one in which the following occurs (according to Encarta Dictionary):

“the hardening and thickening of body tissue as a result of unwarranted growth, degeneration of nerve fibers, or deposition of minerals, especially calcium.”

Wait a minute. When I first started writing about CKD, I approached NephCure Foundation… not being certain what it was, but seeing Neph in its name. They were kind enough to ask me to guest blog for them on 8/21/11. By the way, as of August 15, 2014, NephCure Foundation became NephCure Kidney International. That makes the connection to our kidneys much more clear.

Back to FSGS. The NephCure Kidney International website at https://nephcure.org/ offers us this information:

“How is FSGS Diagnosed?

FSGS is diagnosed with renal biopsy (when doctors examine a tiny portion of the kidney tissue), however, because only some sections of the glomeruli are affected, the biopsy can sometimes be inconclusive.

What are the Symptoms of FSGS?

Many people with FSGS have no symptoms at all.  When symptoms are present the most common include:

Proteinuria – Large amounts of protein ‘spilling’ into the urine

Edema – Swelling in parts of the body, most noticeable around the eyes, hands and feet, and abdomen which causes sudden weight gain.

Low Blood Albumin Levels because the kidneys are removing albumin instead of returning it to the blood

High Cholesterol in some cases

High Blood Pressure in some cases and can often be hard to treat

FSGS can also cause abnormal results of creatinine in laboratory tests. Creatinine is measured by taking a blood sample. Everyone has a certain amount of a substance called creatinine floating in his or her blood. This substance is always being produced by healthy muscles and normally the kidneys constantly filter it out and the level of creatinine stays low. But when the filters become damaged, they stop filtering properly and the level of creatinine left in the blood goes up.”

Whoa! Look at all the terms we’ve used again and again in the last eleven years of SlowItDownCKD’s weekly blog: proteinuria, edema, albumin, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and creatinine. This is definitely something that we, as CKD patients, should know about.

Okay. Let’s say you are diagnosed with FSGS. Now what? The National Kidney Organization at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/focal was helpful here:

How is FSGS treated?

The type of treatment you get depends on the cause. Everyone is different and your doctor will make a treatment plan that is right for your type of FSGS. Usually, treatments for FSGS include:

  • Corticosteroids (often called “steroids”)
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • ACE inhibitors and ARBs
  • Diuretics
  • Diet change

Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs: These medications are used to calm your immune system (your body’s defense system) and stop it from attacking your glomeruli.

ACE inhibitors and ARBs: These are blood pressure medications used to reduce protein loss and control blood pressure.”

Diuretics: These medications help your body get rid of excess fluid and swelling. These can be used to lower your blood pressure too.

Diet changes:  Some diet changes may be needed, such as reducing salt (sodium) and protein in your food choices to lighten the load of wastes on the kidneys.”

I think we need another definition here. Yep, it’s Plasmapheresis. Back to the Encarta Dictionary.

“a process in which blood taken from a patient is treated to extract the cells and corpuscles, which are then added to another fluid and returned to the patient’s body.”

Let’s go back to The NephCure Kidney International website at https://nephcure.org/ for a succinct summary of FSGS Facts.

“More than 5400 patients are diagnosed with FSGS every year, however, this is considered an underestimate because:

  • a limited number of biopsies are performed
  • the number of FSGS cases are rising more than any other cause of Nephrotic Syndrome…

NephCure estimates that there are currently 19,306 people living with ESRD due to FSGS…, in part because it is the most common cause of steroid resistant Nephrotic Syndrome in children,… and it is the second leading cause of kidney failure in children…

NephCure estimates that people of African ancestry are at a five times higher diagnosis rate of FSGS…

About half of FSGS patients who do not respond to steroids go into ESRD each year, requiring dialysis or transplantation…

Approximately 1,000 FSGS patients a year receive kidney transplants… however, within hours to weeks after a kidney transplant, FSGS returns in approximately 30-40% of patients….”

As prevalent and serious as this sounds, please remember that FSGS is a rare kidney disease. Knowing what we now know just may help you keep your eyes open for it.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

That’s Not a Kind of Kidney Disease.  Or Is It?

It’s like I’m attuned to anything kidney. After eleven years of writing about Chronic Kidney Disease, I’ll bet I am. Sometimes, it’s the smallest connection that triggers something in my mind. For example, Sjögren’s syndrome kept nagging at me, although I’d never heard of it as a sort of kidney disease. So, what was it and what did it have to do with the kidneys? I went right to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation at https://info.sjogrens.org/conquering-sjogrens/sjogrens-kidney-disease for information.

Sjögren’s & Kidney Disease

by Philip L. Cohen, MD, Professor of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine 

About 5% of people with Sjögren’s develop kidney problems. In most of these patients, the cause is inflammation around the kidney tubules, where urine is collected, concentrated, and becomes acidic. The infiltrating blood cells (mostly lymphocytes) injure the tubular cells, so that the urine does not become as acidic as it should. This condition, called distal renal tubular acidosis, is frequently asymptomatic, but can cause excessive potassium to be excreted in the urine, and may lead to kidney stones or (very rarely) low enough blood potassium to cause muscle weakness or heart problems. Very occasionally, injury to the renal tubules can cause impairment in the ability to concentrate urine, leading to excessive urine volume and increased drinking of fluids (nephrogenic diabetes insipidus).

A smaller number of patients with Sjögren’s may develop inflammation of the glomeruli, which are the tiny capillaries through which blood is filtered to produce urine. This may cause protein to leak into the urine, along with red blood cells. Sometimes a kidney biopsy is needed to establish the exact diagnosis and treatment. Treatment options may include corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs to prevent loss of kidney function.

This information was first printed in The Moisture Seekers, SSF’s patient newsletter for members.”

This reminds me of when I was teaching critical thinking on the college level. First, we’d hit the class with an article about something foreign to them and then, we’d show them how to figure out what it meant. For our purposes, a few explanations and perhaps a diagram or two might be a good place to start.

Tubules, huh? What are those? Actually, the word just means tube shaped. Remembering that renal and kidney mean the same thing, we can see the problem area.

Here’s another picture. This one to show you glomeruli.

Now remember, CKD patients are usually limited as to how much fluid they can drink per day. Too much forces the kidneys to work too hard to clear the urine from your body. Remember the car analogy from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease?

As for potassium, that’s one of the electrolytes CKD patients need to be aware of. This article by Dr. Parker on Healthy Way at http://www.bmj-health.com/what-does-potassium-do/ explains:

“Potassium does many important functions in the body. This essential mineral is mainly found inside the cells of our body. Low potassium levels are associated with many health conditions including hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and muscle weakness. We should take adequate amounts of potassium-rich foods for a healthy life.

Potassium is essential for the heart

We need potassium to maintain the blood pressure within normal range. There should be a balance between sodium and potassium in the body to regulate our blood pressure. Too much sodium and too little potassium can elevate your blood pressure.

In addition, potassium is needed for the contraction of the heart. Potassium levels in the blood should be kept nearly constant or within a narrow range for the proper pumping action of the heart. The heart may stop beating if we have high or low levels of potassium in the blood.

We need potassium for stronger muscles

Most of the potassium in the body is found inside the muscle cells. It is the main positively charged ion inside the cells. It is essential for the contraction of muscles. Low levels of potassium are associated with muscle twitching, cramps and muscle weakness. Very low levels can cause paralysis of the muscles.

Hypokalemic periodic paralysis is a disorder that causes occasional episodes of muscle weakness and paralysis caused by lower levels of potassium in the blood. It is a genetic condition that runs in families.

It is essential for nerve conduction

Sodium and potassium are needed to maintain the electrical potential across the nerve cells. This electrical charge is essential for the conduction of nerve signals along the nerves.

It protects from stroke

Researchers found eating potassium-rich foods is associated with reduced incidents of stroke. A recent study conducted in postmenopausal women supports the findings. One of the co-researchers says, ‘post-menopausal women should eat more potassium-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, milk and unprocessed meats in order to lower their risk of stroke and death’.

It is important for water and electrolyte balance in the body

Water and electrolyte balance is maintained by the kidneys. This is one of the important functions of the kidneys. Aldosterone, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands plays the primary role in the balance of sodium and potassium.

The normal blood level of potassium is 3.5 to 5 mmol/l. A level of less than 3.5 is called hypokalemia, and more than 5 is called hyperkalemia. To achieve the normal blood level, we need to take about 4 to 5 grams of potassium per day. An average size banana will provide about 25% of daily requirement.

It is recommended to eat foods that have plenty of potassium. In addition, your diet should contain low amounts of sodium (salt). Taking supplements is not a good idea. It can cause many side effects.

People who have certain medical conditions such as chronic kidney failure should not eat large amounts of potassium-rich foods.

People who take certain types of medications should consult a doctor about their potassium intake. Some may need additional intake while others may need to restrict the intake of potassium rich foods.”

So, while Sjögren’s syndrome may not be a kind of kidney disease, it can affect your kidneys. Thanks for keeping me company while I made the connection for myself.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Chemo and My Kidneys

 As most of you know, I am extremely protective of my kidneys. When I was first diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease 11 years ago, my eGFR was only 39. Here’s a quick reminder of what the eGFR is from my first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“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.”

39. That’s stage 3B, the lower part of stage 3B. During the intervening 11 years, I’ve been able to raise it to 50 (and sometimes higher for short periods) via vigorously following the renal diet, exercising, avoiding stress as much as possible, maintaining adequate sleep, and paying strict attention to the medications prescribed for me. While the medications were the ones I had been taking for high blood pressure prior to being diagnosed with CKD, they worked in my favor.

This excerpt from The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) part of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK492989/ will explain why:

“The decision of whether to reduce blood pressure levels in someone who has chronic kidney disease will depend on

  • how high their blood pressure is (when untreated),
  • whether they have diabetes, and
  • how much protein is in their urine (albumin level).

A person with normal blood pressure who doesn’t have diabetes and hardly has any albumin in their urine will be able to get by without using any blood-pressure-lowering medication. But people who have high blood pressure, diabetes or high levels of albumin in their urine are advised to have treatment with ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) or sartans (angiotensin receptor blockers). In people who have diabetes, blood-sugar-lowering medication is also important.”

When I was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer early last month, it changed my medical priorities. With my nephrologist’s blessing, my primary focus was the cancer… not my kidneys. It took constant reminders to myself not to be so quick to say no to anything that I thought would harm my kidneys. In other words, to those things I’d been saying no to for the last 11 years.

For example, once diagnosed with CKD, I ate very little protein keeping to my five ounce daily limitation. Not anymore. Protein is needed to avoid muscle wasting during chemotherapy with a minimum requirement of eight ounces a day. I even tried roast beef and other red meats. After 11 years, they no longer agreed with me so I eat ground turkey, chicken, cheese, and am considering soy.

Another change: I preferred not to eat carbohydrates, but was warned not to lose weight if I could help it. All of a sudden I’m eating Goldfish, bread, and pasta. I can’t say that I’m enjoying them, but I am keeping my weight loss to a minimum. Other limitations like those on potassium and phosphorous have also gone by the wayside. I’ve eaten every childhood favorite, foods that I’ve avoided for the last 11 years, and anything that might look tempting in the last month, but none of them really taste that good. I like the foods on the renal diet now.

Oh, the only thing I have not increased is salt. My daughter takes me to my chemotherapy sessions. There’s a Jewish style restaurant across the street and we showed up early one day. I wanted to try a toasted bagel with butter, the way I ate it before CKD. The damned thing was salty! I hadn’t expected that.

Back to chemo and my kidneys. I admit it. I was nervous. What was this combination of poisons going to do to my kidneys? If it was so caustic that I had to have a port in place so that it wouldn’t be injected directly into my veins for fear of obliterating them, what about my kidneys?

I anxiously awaited my first Comprehensive Blood Panel, the blood test that includes your GFR. Oh, oh, oh! My kidney function had risen to 55 and my creatinine had lowered to 1.0. Let me explain just how good this was.

A GFR of 55 is the higher part of stage 3A. 60 is where stage 2 of CKD begins. My kidneys were functioning better on chemo. And the creatinine? Let’s get a quick definition of that first. According to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/tests-diagnosis:

“Creatinine. Creatinine is a waste product from the normal breakdown of muscles in your body. Your kidneys remove creatinine from your blood. Providers use the amount of creatinine in your blood to estimate your GFR. As kidney disease gets worse, the level of creatinine goes up.”

Yet, mine went down. How? I asked and it was explained that all the hydration used to clear my veins of the caustic chemotherapy had worked this magic. I had two hours of hydration before the chemo-therapy  itself, two hours afterward, and another two hours the next day. My kidneys had never been this hydrated!

But wait, there’s more. I have diabetes. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin. Could my diabetes be from the tumor blocking the production of insulin by my pancreas? I truly don’t know, but my glucose level is within the standard range for the first time since I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.

Would I recommend chemotherapy to raise your GFR, and lower your creatinine and your glucose level? Of course not. But I am feeling so very lucky that my kidneys are not coming to any harm during the chemotherapy necessary to save my life. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Thank you to Dr. Seuss for lending us the title of today’s blog. Oh, you haven’t heard of him yet? According to Encyclopaedia Britannica at https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dr-Seuss:

“Dr. Seuss, pseudonym of Theodor Seuss Geisel, (born March 2, 1904, Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.—died September 24, 1991, La Jolla, California), American writer and illustrator of immensely popular children’s books, which were noted for their nonsense words, playful rhymes, and unusual creatures.”

And why begin the blog with the title of his book you ask. Last month, I received an email from booknowmed.com. Now, I’m not endorsing this new company since I’m not on dialysis and so have not made use of their services myself. However, after reading about the difficulties my dialysis readers were having finding a clinic while they traveled, I was intrigued. Could this be another way to lessen the burden of being on dialysis?

This is from that email:

“What is booknowmed.com?

Whether you travel for holidays or for work, with booknowmed.com you can now find dialysis clinics that have availability for your treatment dates and book your treatments on the spot, anywhere in the World. And most importantly, booknowmed.com is FREE for patients.

  • Browse 440+ dialysis centers, in 380 destinations across 5 continents.
  • Find clinics that have availability based on your search criteria.
  • Know the price of treatment, before booking.
  • See ratings and read reviews from previous patients at the clinic.
  • Book your treatments on the spot in safety.
  • No booking fees, no hidden costs.
  • Track the progress of your booking, directly from your account.

Booknowmed.com is supported by the European Union and 60 national Kidney Patient Associations globally.”

Based on this alone, I asked Vassia Efstathiou, the User Experience Manager, if she’d be interested in guest blogging… and she was.  This is what she had to say, with just a bit of editing from me.

“Free booking engine for dialysis treatments? Dream or reality?

Travelling while on dialysis is a challenge on its own. Consider having to research, book and coordinate your dialysis treatments abroad. This process can be particularly stressful for dialysis patients, especially when faced with language barriers, lack of information – like the availability of clinics and cost of treatments- and, of course, safety concerns.

Many dialysis patients know this already but the power of the Internet alone cannot do much in this case. So it is definitely good news to hear that the first booking engine for holiday dialysis is live, and even better news to see that it actually works. Let alone the fact that it is free for patients!

Since its launch, thousands of dialysis patients have used booknowmed.com to book more than 27,000 treatments around the globe.

booknowmed.com allows dialysis patients to browse, find and book their dialysis treatments anywhere in the World. We are talking literally – anywhere.

By visiting booknowmed.com you will be able to browse more than 450 dialysis centers in 380 destinations, across five continents. This includes standard holiday options like Spain, Greece, and Turkey, as well some less ordinary destinations like Bali, Sri Lanka, Miami, Brazil and Argentina. Cuba, Barbados, and Curacao are coming up this month.

Bookings are completely free for patients, meaning there are no booking or other hidden costs. Overall the platform is very user-friendly and the booking process is very simple:

  1. Patients select their treatment dates and desired destination.
  2. They are then presented with a list of the clinics that match their search criteria and – most importantly – have availability for the requested dates.
  3. Booking is completed after a simple registration process, which is there for safety reasons. The process takes three minutes and includes registering the patient’s full name, email, and telephone number.

But let’s examine what differentiates booknowmed.com to the online directories currently available to dialysis patients.

Firstly, we are talking about a booking engine where you can book your treatments on the spot. In contrast to online directories, booknowmed.com allows you to know the availability and price before booking. You can select your exact treatment dates and preferred shift, and complete your booking without picking up the phone or waiting for a reply that takes weeks. Consider that the average booking time on booknowmed.com is six minutes compare to 15 days, the average booking time when you contact the clinic directly or go through a directory service.

Secondly, you have a wide variety of options to choose from, not only in terms of destination but also in terms of the type of the medical facility. booknowmed.com offers the largest network of independent dialysis centers. From global leaders – like Diaverum – to public and private hospitals as well as independent state-of-the-art clinics around the globe.

Thirdly, the simplicity of the booking process itself.

And last, but definitely not least, the great features offered to patients, which promote transparency and allow them to have all the information in hand before booking. These include:

  • Know the price of treatment before booking.
  • Use smart filters to narrow down your research. If you are an EU patient, for example, you can select to be presented with only the clinics that accept the EHIC.
  • See ratings and read reviews written by real patients who have completed treatment at this particular clinic.
  • Track the progress of your booking through your account. All the details of the booking including the exact time frame of the treatment, contact details of the clinic, and even a map with instructions on how to get there can be found in your account.

booknowmed.com was created by professionals with years of expertise in renal healthcare and the goal to serve a true need for patients. It has received the support of the European Union as well as of national kidney patient associations globally.

The company has plans to expand the functionalities of the platform, with the goal to become a 360o platform serving various everyday needs of renal patients, from nutrition and supplements to an online database and the online exchange of medical reports.

booknowmed.com is the living proof that we have entered a new era for dialysis patients, who can now find and book treatments abroad, with no hassle, no risk, and no language barriers.

Gail here, hoping this is exactly what you’ve been looking for to make your travel while on dialysis an easier experience for you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

CKD and Me

Okay, so I was finally ready to give up World Kidney Day and National Kidney Month. Maybe it’s time to give up the 1in9 chapter contribution, too. Since each contributing author also had their biography accompanying their chapter, I think the best way to do that is to print the biography… although it’s all me, me, me. Indulge me, please.

*****

Ms. Rae-Garwood’s writing started out as a means to an end for a single parent with two children and a need for more income than her career as a NYC teacher afforded. Gail retired from both college teaching and acting – after a bit of soul searching about where her CKD limited energy would be best spent – early in 2013. Since her diagnose, Ms. Rae-Garwood writes most often about Chronic Kidney Disease, although she does write fiction. She has a three time award winning weekly blog (Surprise!) about this topic at https://gailraegarwood.wordpress.com and social media accounts as @SlowItDownCKD.

*****

Hmmm, it seems to me I’ve done a lot more with Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy since I started with this in 2010. Let’s see what else there is. Aha! These are on my website at www.gail-raegarwood.com.

 

Arizona Health & Living  (West Valley)  6/2018

 

MyTherapy Guest Blog    3/8/18

eCareDiary: Coping with Chronic Kidney  Disease  3/06/18

NephJC: One More Patient Voice on CKD Staging and Precision Medicine  12/08/16

 

Center for Science in the Public Interest: Nutrition Action Healthletter   9/16

New York State United Teachers: It’s What We Do   8/9/16

American Kidney Fund: Slowing DownCKD – It Can Be Done   7/14/16

The Edge Podcast  5/19/16

Dear Annie   3/10/14

Renal Diet Headquarters Podcast   2/12/14

 

Accountable Kidney Care Collaborative: Bob’s Blog   1/23/14

Wall Street Journal: Patients Can Do More to Control Chronic Conditions  1/13/14

The Neuropathy Doctor’s News   9/23/13

Series of five Monthly CKD education classes in The Salt River Pima-Maricopa

Indian Community   9/12/13

 

KidneySteps: Gail Rae and SlowItDown  9/11/13

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community: 4th Annual Men and Women’s Gathering  8/29/13

National Kidney Foundation: Staying Healthy  6/6/13

KidneySteps: Learning Helps with CKD    7/04/12

Life Options Links for Patients and Professionals   5/30/12

It Is Just What It Is    3/9/12

Online with Andrea    03/07/12

 

Working with Chronic Illness  2/17/12

 

Libre Tweet Chat with Gail Rae   1/10/12

Kevinmd.com   1/1/12

Improve Your Kidney Health with Dr. Rich Snyder, DO   11/21/11

Glendale Community College Gaucho Gazette   8/22/11

 

The NephCure Foundation   8/21/11

Authors Show Radio    8/8/11

Renal Support Network: Another 30 Years  1/11/10

Working with Chronic Illness: Are You Aching to Write    1/11/10

I’m going to keep today’s blog very short so you have the time to click though on the hyperlinked podcasts and articles. When I was teaching college, my students thoroughly enjoyed the time to choose what they’d like to hear or read from a prescribed list. I hope it’s the same for you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

National Kidney Month Extended

The chapter I contributed to 1in9 goes on beyond National Kidney Month, so since I think every day should be World Kidney Day, I decided to just keep printing it until it was finished. Gotcha! Bet you thought I was going to write every month should be National Kidney Month. Although, that’s not a bad idea either. So, for those of you just tuning in, this is actually part three of that chapter. You can just scroll back on the blog to read the first two parts. Ready? Let’s go.

*****

I realized I needed to rest, too. Instead of giving a lecture, running to an audition, and coming home to meet a deadline, I slowly started easing off until I didn’t feel like I was running on empty all the time. The result was that I ended up graciously retiring from both acting and teaching at a local college, which gave me more time to work on my CKD awareness advocacy.

But, I had to be oh-so-vigilant with other medical practitioners. One summer I had four different infections and had to quickly research the medications prescribed in the emergency room. One hospital insisted I could take sulfa drugs because I was only stage 2 at the time. My nephrologist disagreed. They also prescribed a pain killer with acetaminophen in it, another no-no for us.  I didn’t return to them when I developed the other infections.

My experience demonstrates that you can slow down CKD. I was diagnosed at stage 3 and I am still there, over a decade later. It takes knowledge, commitment and discipline—but it can be done, and it’s worth the effort. I’m sneaking up on 72 now and know this is where I want to spend my energy for the rest of my life: chronic kidney disease awareness advocacy. I think it’s just that important.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was a college instructor. My favorite course to teach was Research Writing. I was also a writer with an Academic Certificate in Creative Non-Fiction and a bunch of publications under my belt. It occurred to me that I couldn’t be the only one who had no clue what this new-to-me disease was and how to handle living with it. I knew how to research and I knew how to write, so why not share what I learned?

I wasn’t sure of what had to be done to share or how to do it. I learned by trial and error. People were so kind in teaching me, pointing out what might work better, even suggesting others that might be interested in what I was doing. I love people. I’d written quite a few how to(s), study guides, articles, and literary guides so the writing was not new to me. I asked for suggestions as to what to do with my writing and that’s when I learned about unscrupulous, price gouging vanity publishers. I’m still paying for the unwitting mistakes I made, but they were learning experiences.

My less-than-stellar experience with being diagnosed and the first nephrologist are what prompted me to write What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. Why, I wondered, should any new CKD patient be as terrified as I was? Of course, I constantly remind my readers that I’m not a doctor and they need to consult their nephrologists or renal dietitians before making any changes to their regiment.

I didn’t feel… well, done with sharing or researching once I finished the book so I began writing a weekly blog: SlowItDownCKD. Well, that and because a nephrologist in India told me he wanted his newly diagnosed patients to read my book, but most of them couldn’t afford the bus fare to the clinic, much less a book. I published each chapter as a blog post. The nephrologist translated my posts, printed them and distributed them to his patients—who took the printed copies back to their communities. It would work!

But first I had to teach myself how to blog. I made some boo-boos and lost a bunch of blogs until I got it figured out. So why do I keep blogging? There always seems to be more to share about CKD. Each week, I wonder what I’ll write… and the ideas keep coming. I now have readers in something like 106 different countries who ask me questions I hadn’t even thought of. I research for them and respond with a blog post, reminding them to speak with their nephrologists and/or renal nutritionists before taking any action… and that I’m not a doctor. The blog has won several awards. Basically, that’s because I write in a reader friendly manner. After all, what good is all my researching if no one understands what I’m writing?

Non-tech savvy readers asked if I could print the blogs; hence, the birth of the SlowItDownCKD series of books. Some people think SlowItDownCKD is a business; it’s not. Some think it’s a profit maker; it’s not. So, what is it you ask? It’s a vehicle for spreading awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease and whatever goes along with the disease. Why do I do it? Because I had no idea what it was, nor how I might have prevented the disease, nor how to deal with it effectively once I was diagnosed. I couldn’t stand the thought of others being in the same position.

One of my daughters taught me about social media. What???? You could post whatever you wanted to? And Facebook wasn’t the only way to reach the public at large? Hello, LinkedIn. A friend who is a professional photographer asked me why I wasn’t using my fun photography habit to promote awareness. What??? You could do that? Enter Instagram. My step-daughters love Pinterest. That got me to thinking and suddenly SlowItDownCKD had a Pinterest account. Then someone I met at a conference casually mentioned she offers Twitter workshops. What kind of workshops? She showed me how to use Twitter to raise CKD awareness.

*****

There’s more and you’ll get to read it next week. I hope you’re enjoying your look into how I entered the world of Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness Advocacy.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

From a Book…

I was trying to figure out a new angle from which to write about Chronic Kidney Disease during National Kidney Month and decided that my chapter in the newly released 1in9 just might be the way.

By the way, I really don’t like shopping, but did so for a ‘fancy blouse’ for the fancy book launch. The day of the launch turned out to be the day I unexpectedly had anesthesia and I ended up not being able to go. From the pictures I’ve seen of the event, it was a fun event. Now I need another fun event to wear that ‘fancy blouse’ to.  After all, we can’t let a dreaded shopping trip go to waste, can we?

Without further ado, I present the first part of my 1in9 chapter:

My name is Gail Rae-Garwood. I like to think of myself as an average older woman with two adult daughters, a fairly recent husband, and a very protective dog. But I’m not. What makes me a little different is that I have Chronic Kidney Disease… just like the estimated 30 million or 15% of the adult population in the United States. Unlike 96% of those in the early stages of the disease, I know my kidneys are not functioning well.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, before I’d ever heard the word nephrology, I paid no attention to my kidneys. I had just a vague idea of where they were located because I had big brothers. Every time they watched boxing, one or the other of them would yell, “Oh! Right in the kidneys!” when one guy hit the other on the back, sort of near the waist.  My mother attempted to feed us kidney beans once or twice, but three voices chorusing the 1950’s equivalent of “Uh, gross!” was enough to convince her they weren’t that necessary. My father had a friend who’d moved up in the world and had a kidney shaped pool. Of course, I never had a bird’s eye view of that as a child. So, we were a family pretty much ignorant about kidneys.

When I grew up, I never let my children watch boxing; it was too violent. I never even tried to feed them kidney beans, probably due to some residual abhorrence left over from my own childhood. I had no friends with kidney shaped pools, but I had flown in an airplane and could recognize one if we were flying low. That was the sum total of my kidney education. I didn’t even recall if they were covered in high school biology. My daughters, now grown women, said they were, but I didn’t remember anything about that.

I was blindsided over a decade ago. That’s when I started seeing a new doctor solely because she was both on my insurance plan and so much closer to home than the one I’d been seeing. It seems everything is at least half an hour away in Arizona; her office wasn’t. As a diligent primary care physician, she ordered a whole battery of tests to verify what she found in my files which, by the way, contained a kidney function reading (called the GFR) of 39%. That was something I’d never been told about.

39%. I’d been a high school teacher for 35 years at that point. If a student had scored 39% on a test, we would have talked and talked until we had gotten to the root of the problem that caused such a low score. No one talked to me about my low kidney function until I changed doctors.

“That’s not normal,” said my new doctor as she looked at my blood test results.

I made the supreme effort of tearing my eyes away from the height and weight chart to ask, “What’s not normal?”

“Your GFR,” she told me.  I looked at her blankly. (In retrospect, I can understand how hard it probably was for her not to laugh at my empty eyes and a face without a shred of interest showing on it.) I said nothing. She said nothing.

Finally, I asked, “What’s that?”  She gave me a simple explanation with no indication that I should panic in any way, but of course I did.

“It’s what!  It’s below normal?  My kidneys aren’t functioning to full capacity? Why wasn’t I told? What do I do now? How do I fix the problem? I want them at 100%.”

Her voice rose over mine in a steady, sure manner. “This does not mean there is a problem. It means you must go to a specialist to see if there really is a problem.”

“Oh.” I didn’t believe her, but she not only talked, she had me in a nephrologist’s (kidney and hypertension specialist) office the next day. That’s when I started worrying. Who gets an appointment with a specialist the very next day? I was diagnosed at stage 3; there are only 5 stages. I had to start working to slow down the progression in the decline of my kidney function immediately.

I read just about every book I could find concerning this problem. Surprisingly, very few books dealt with the early or moderate stages of the disease.  Yet these are the stages when CKD patients are most shocked, confused, and maybe even depressed—and the stages at which they have a workable chance of doing something to slow down the progression in the decline of their kidney function.

This first nephrologist might have been reassuring, but I’ll never know. I was terrified; he was patriarchal. All I heard was, “I’ll take care of your kidneys. You just do as I say,” or something to that effect.

Nope, wrong doctor for me. I wanted to know how medication, diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes could help. I didn’t want to be told what to do without an explanation as to why… and when I couldn’t get an explanation that was acceptable to me, I started researching. (More about that later.) You see, I’d already had a terrific Dad who’d known better than to ask me to give up control of myself. I didn’t need a doctor assuming his role… especially in a way I resented.

… to be continued. (This will take several weeks. It is a chapter in book, so it’s longer than my usual 1,000 or so word blog.)

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

World Kidney Day, 2019

Will you look at that? The world keeps moving on no matter what’s going on in our personal lives. And so, I recognize that Thursday of this week is World Kidney Day. In honor of this occasion, I’ve chosen to update last year’s World Kidney Day blog… so sit back and enjoy the read.

…World Kidney Day? What’s that? I discovered this is a fairly new designation. It was only thirteen years ago that it was initiated.

 

According to http://worldkidneyday.org,

World Kidney Day is a global awareness campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of our kidneys.”

Sound familiar?  That’s where I’m heading with What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease; SlowItDownCKD 2011; SlowItDownCKD 2012; SlowItDownCKD 2013; SlowItDownCKD 2014; SlowItDownCKD 2015; SlowItDownCKD 2016; SlowItDownCKD 2017; Facebook; Instagram; LinkedIn; Pinterest; Twitter; and this blog. We may be running along different tracks, but we’re headed in the same direction.

The 59 year old International Society of Nephrology (ISN) – a non-profit group spreading over 155 countries – is one part of the equation for their success.  Another is the International Federation of Kidney Foundations with membership in over 40 countries. Add a steering committee and The World Kidney Day Team and you have the makings of this particular concept….

According to their website at https://www.theisn.org/advocacy/world-kidney-day :

“The mission of World Kidney Day is to raise awareness of the importance of our kidneys to our overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide.

Objectives:

  • Raise awareness about our ‘amazing kidneys’
  • Highlight that diabetes and high blood pressure are key risk factors for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
  • Encourage systematic screening of all patients with diabetes and hypertension for CKD
  • Encourage preventive behaviors
  • Educate all medical professionals about their key role in detecting and reducing the risk of CKD, particularly in high risk populations
  • Stress the important role of local and national health authorities in controlling the CKD epidemic.”

While there are numerous objectives for this year’s World Kidney Day, the one that lays closest to my heart is this one: ‘Encourage systematic screening of all patients with diabetes and hypertension for CKD.’

Back to World Kidney Day’s website at https://www.worldkidneyday.org  now, if you please.

This year’s theme is Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere.

Their site offers materials and ideas for events as well as a map of global events. Prepare to be awed at how wide spread World Kidney Day events are.

Before you leave their page, take a detour to Kidney FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on the toolbar at the top of the page.  You can learn everything you need to know from what the kidneys do to what the symptoms (or lack thereof) of CKD are, from how to treat CKD to a toolbox full of helpful education about your kidneys to preventative measures.

If only my nurse practitioner had been aware of National Kidney Month or World Kidney Day, she could have warned me immediately that I needed to make lifestyle changes so the decline of my kidney function could have been slowed down earlier. How much more of my kidney function would I still have if I’d known earlier? That was a dozen years ago. This shouldn’t still be happening… but it is.

I received a phone call a few years ago that just about broke my heart.  Someone very dear to me sobbed, “He’s dying.” When I calmed her down, she explained a parent was sent to a nephrologist who told him he has end stage renal disease and needed dialysis or transplantation immediately.

I pried a little trying to get her to admit he’d been diagnosed before end stage, but she simply didn’t know what I was talking about. There had been no diagnose of Chronic Kidney Disease up to this point. There was diabetes, apparently out of control diabetes, but no one impressed upon this man that diabetes is the foremost cause of CKD.

What a waste of the precious time he could have had to do more than stop smoking, which he did (to his credit), the moment he was told it would help with the diabetes.  Would he be where he was then if his medical practitioners had been aware of National Kidney Month or World Kidney Day, especially since this man was high risk due to his age and diabetes?  I fervently believe so.

I have a close friend who was involved in the local senior center where she lives.  She said she didn’t know anyone else but me who had this disease.  Since 1 out of every 7 people does nationally (That’s 15% of the adult population) and being over 60 places you in a high risk group, I wonder how many of her friends were included in the 96% of those in the early stage of CKD who don’t know they have CKD or don’t even know they need to be tested.  I’d have rather been mistaken here, but I’m afraid I wasn’t. National Kidney Month or World Kidney Day could have helped them become aware.

For those of you who have forgotten (Easily read explanations of what results of the different items on your tests mean are in What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.), all it takes is a blood test and a urine test to detect CKD.  I have routine blood tests every three months to monitor a medication I’m taking.  It was in this test, a test I took anyway, that my family physician uncovered Chronic Kidney Disease as a problem.

There is so much free education about CKD online. Maybe you can start with the blogroll on the right side of the blog or hit “Apps” on the Topics Dropdown. None of us needs to hear another sorrowful, “If only I had known!”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

National Kidney Month, 2019

Anyone remember LOL? It’s older internet shorthand for Laughing Out Loud. That’s what I’m doing right now. Why? Because, after all these years of blogging, I’ve just realized that I compose my opening paragraph as I’m waking up. Still in bed, mind you. Still half asleep. Isn’t the brain wonderful?

This is my half asleep composition for this morning: March is National Kidney Month. That’s not to be confused with March 14th, which is World Kidney Day. So, today, we address the nation. Next week, the world.

As usual, let’s start at the beginning. What is National Kidney Month? Personalized Cause at https://www.personalizedcause.com/health-awareness-cause-calendar/national-kidney-month has a succinct explanation for us. By the way, while I’m not endorsing them since the site is new to me, I should let you know they sell the green ribbons for National Kidney Month that you’ll probably be seeing hither and yon all month.

“National Kidney Month, observed in March and sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation, is a time to increase awareness of kidney disease, promote the need for a cure, and spur advocacy on behalf of those suffeing (sic) with the emotional, financial and physical burden of kidney disease. The National Kidney Foundation is the leading organization in the U.S. dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease for hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, millions of patients and their families, and tens of millions of Americans at risk.” That, of course, prompted me to go directly to the National Kidney Foundation’s information about National Kidney Month at https://www.kidney.org/news/monthly/Focus_KidneyMonth.

Focus on the Kidneys During National Kidney Month in March

March is National Kidney Month and the NKF is urging all Americans to give their kidneys a second thought and a well-deserved checkup. Kidneys filter 200 liters of blood a day, help regulate blood pressure and direct red blood cell production. But they are also prone to disease; 1 in 3 Americans is at risk for kidney disease due to diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure. There are more than 30 million Americans who already have kidney disease, and most don’t know it because there are often no symptoms until the disease has progressed. During National Kidney Month in March, and in honor of World Kidney Day on March 14, the NKF offers the following health activities to promote awareness of kidneys, risk factors and kidney disease:

  • Free Screenings: On World Kidney Day and throughout the Month of March, NKF is offering free screenings to those most at risk for kidney disease – anyone with diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney failure. Locations and information can be found on the calendar on our website.
  • ‘Are You at Risk’ Kidney Quiz: Early detection can make a difference in preventing kidney disease so it’s important to know if you’re at risk. Take the online kidney quiz!
  • Live Twitter Chat with Dr. Joseph Vassalotti: The National Kidney Foundation’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, will be hosting an interactive kidney Q&A on World Kidney Day, Thursday, March 14, from 12-2 pm ET. Ask your questions at www.twitter.com/nkf using the hash-tag #WorldKidneyDayNKF.”

Wow, so much going on. This is also the month of kidney walks, like the one my daughter Nima participated in on the East Coast in my honor, or the one for which I organized a team several years ago. Actually, it’s the month specifically for anything and everything that will raise awareness of kidney disease. I’ve mentioned that I contributed a chapter to the book 1in9, which is about kidney disease. You’re right. The book launch is this month, March 6th to be specific.

The American Kidney Fund at http://www.kidneyfund.org/take-the-pledge/ is also taking part in National Kidney Month. They have a form to fill out to take a pledge to fight kidney disease.  I signed up; you can, too, if you’d like to. I’m not comfortable with the word “fight,” but I’m not going to let that stop me from spreading awareness of the disease. I wanted to share this quote from the AKF with you, both as a CKD awareness advocate and a woman:

“‘Kidney disease is a silent killer that disproportionately affects women who are often the primary caregivers for loved ones with the disease, are more likely to become living donors but less likely to receive a transplant, and are at higher risk for CKD,’ said LaVarne A. Burton, president and chief executive officer of AKF. ‘Because women with kidney disease may also face other health issues, including infertility, pregnancy complications, bone disease and depression, AKF is using Kidney Month to let women know we are here to support them and to provide resources that will answer their questions and concerns.’”

The Renal Support Network at https://www.rsnhope.org/ is working even more emphatically to spread kidney disease awareness this month, too:

“March is National Kidney Month. This is a special time set aside to raise awareness about kidney health and activities. RSN invites members of the kidney community, our friends and our families to join in the conversation.”

This on top of their usual. For those that are not familiar with this group, the following statement is from their website.

“Since 1993 RSN has created and continues to produce a vast collection of information about kidney disease. Feel free to share our National Kidney Month page, a favorite story, KidneyTalk™ show or awareness image on social media using the hashtag #KidneyMonth and be sure to tag us @RSNhope.”

DaVita Kidney Care at https://www.davita.com/education/resources offers many resources (as the website’s title assures us) to help understand both CKD and dialysis. Some of their offerings are:

If you click through on the link offered above, each item will open on a new page.

As for me, I’ll blog my brains out until more and more people are aware of kidney disease. Same goes for the Instagram, Facebook,Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn accounts. It’s all about kidney disease.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Kidney Anxiety

I clearly remember writing about how depression, grief, and stress affect your kidneys, but not about anxiety. As Bear’s pain worsens, there’s a lot of that in my house recently. I don’t understand why it’s taking so long for his doctors to decide upon a treatment plan for him, but while they do I am one anxious person.

I went directly to my old friend, the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961 for a set of anxiety symptoms:

“Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety”

While I don’t have all these symptoms, there are at least four or five of them I can identify with.

Wait a minute. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. Is my worry about Bear’s pain really causing anxiety? I popped over to Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323456.php for some help in figuring out just what it is that causes anxiety.

  • Environmental factors: Elements in the environment around an individual can increase anxiety. Stress from a personal relationship, job, school, or financial predicament can contribute greatly to anxiety disorders. Even low oxygen levels in high-altitude areas can add to anxiety symptoms.
  • Genetics: People who have family members with an anxiety disorder are more likely to have one themselves.
  • Medical factors: Other medical conditions can lead to an anxiety disorder, such as the side effects of medication, symptoms of a disease, or stress from a serious underlying medical condition that may not directly trigger the changes seen in anxiety disorder but might be causing significant lifestyle adjustments, pain, or restricted movement.
  • Brain chemistry: Stressful or traumatic experiences and genetic factors can alter brain structure and function to react more vigorously to triggers that would not previously have caused anxiety. Psychologists and neurologists define many anxiety and mood disorders as disruptions to hormones and electrical signals in the brain.
  • Use of or withdrawal from an illicit substance: The stress of day-to-day living combined with any of the above might serve as key contributors to an anxiety disorder.

There are items on this list which I hadn’t considered before. Years ago, when I was teaching in an old vocational high school, a student holding one of those long, heavy, solid oak window poles to open very high windows quickly spun around to answer a question and accidentally hit me in the head with the pole. That was certainly traumatic and also one of the few times I’ve been hospitalized.

We’ve pretty much figured out that there is an undiagnosed history of anxiety in the family. I’m referring to people from past generations who faced pogroms, the Depression, and even having to give up babies for adoption since that’s what was done with babies from unwed mothers in that generation. Could these folks have had anxiety disorders rather than environmental anxiety? Of course, we’ll never really know since they are long gone from this earth, but it is a thought.

Lightning Bolt!!! I remember visiting my buddy and her mother in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico not long after my own mother died and being anxious. I attributed it to still being in mourning for my mother. San Miguel de Allende has an elevation of 7,000 feet. Was that one of those “low oxygen levels in high-altitude area?” I didn’t know, but Laura Anderson author of the Gunnison Country Times’ article on Acli-Mate at https://acli-mate.com/living-at-altitude-the-pros-and-cons-of-a-high-altitude-lifestyle/ did:

“Low landers generally aren’t affected by altitude until they reach 4,500 to 5,000 feet. But after that, the affects (sic) of altitude are compounded about every 1,000 feet — so the affects (sic) of going from 6,000 feet to 7000 feet can feel the same as jumping from sea level to 4,500 feet.”

What in heaven’s name is this doing to my kidneys, I wondered. I was surprised to find an answer… in reverse. Rather than anxiety causing a kidney problem, it seems that fear of kidney disease can cause anxiety, or at least that’s what Calm Clinic at https://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/kidney-problems claims. Be aware that they are a business and will try to sell to you if you go to their site.

  • Extra Urination Anxiety can cause more frequent urination. When you experience anxiety, the part of your brain that controls the withholding urination slows down because anxiety requires resources to be sent to other parts of your brain. This can lead to concerns over your renal health, although nothing is wrong.
  • Lower Back Pain Lower back pain is also very common with anxiety. Lower back pain comes from severe stress and tension, and yet it’s associated with some conditions that affect the kidneys as well which can have many people worried about their kidney health.
  • Life Experiences Anyone that suffers from anxiety and has had a friend or family member diagnosed with a terrible kidney condition is at risk for developing anxiety over the idea of poor kidneys. Anxiety can turn life experiences into very real concerns, and so kidney health concerns are one of the issues that can come up when you see it in others.”
  • Urine Color Urine color is another issue that can cause anxiety. Many people check their urine color for diseases habitually, and every once in a while the color of a person’s urine may be very different than what they expect. This can create concerns that the urine color changes are due to kidney problems.”

What I find interesting is that kidney disease can cause frequent urination, too. Kidney disease may also cause lower back pain. If you know any CKD patients, you know we’re always checking the color of our urine to make certain we’re well enough hydrated.

So it seems your fear of kidney disease may cause a symptom of kidney disease… and/or possibly diabetes. All I have to say to that is make sure you take the simple urine and blood test to determine if you do really have Chronic Kidney Disease or diabetes.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

A long time reader mentioned she had a kind of kidney disease I wasn’t familiar with, so I decided to find out what I could about it. Are you aware of Uromodulin Kidney Disease?

This is what the U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/uromodulin-associated-kidney-disease had to say:

“Uromodulin-associated kidney disease is an inherited condition that affects the kidneys. The signs and symptoms of this condition vary, even among members of the same family.

Many individuals with uromodulin-associated kidney disease develop high blood levels of a waste product called uric acid. Normally, the kidneys remove uric acid from the blood and transfer it to urine. In this condition, the kidneys are unable to remove uric acid from the blood effectively. A buildup of uric acid can cause gout, which is a form of arthritis resulting from uric acid crystals in the joints. The signs and symptoms of gout may appear as early as a person’s teens in uromodulin-associated kidney disease.

Uromodulin-associated kidney disease causes slowly progressive kidney disease, with the signs and symptoms usually beginning during the teenage years. The kidneys become less able to filter fluids and waste products from the body as this condition progresses, resulting in kidney failure. Individuals with uromodulin-associated kidney disease typically require either dialysis to remove wastes from the blood or a kidney transplant between the ages of 30 and 70. Occasionally, affected individuals are found to have small kidneys or kidney cysts (medullary cysts).”

Since this is inherited, I suspect the only way to prevent it is gene editing. I researched gene editing a bit but discovered there is quite a bit of controversy as to the legal and ethical aspects of this procedure right now. However, this doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

The only other information I could find was far too technical for this lay person to understand, much less explain. Readers, do you have more information?

Something else that was new to me this week: pitaya or dragon fruit. I always buy myself a birthday present and this was mine for this year. By the way, thank you to all the readers who took the time to wish me well on my 72nd yesterday. Back to pitaya.

According to Healthline (Thank you again for the two awards.) at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dragon-fruit#what-it-is, pitaya is:

“Dragon fruit is a tropical fruit native to Mexico and Central America. Its taste is like a combination of a kiwi and a pear…. Dragon fruit is a low-calorie fruit that is high in fiber and provides a good amount of several vitamins and minerals…. Dragon fruit contains several antioxidants that protect your cells from damage. These include betalains, hydroxycinnamates, and flavonoids…. Animal studies suggest that dragon fruit may improve insulin resistance, liver fat, and heart health. However, the results of human studies are inconsistent…. To date, there have been two reported cases of a severe allergic reaction to dragon fruit.”

I like that it contains less sugar and calories than other tropical fruits, but I didn’t find the taste appealing. It was bland with just a hint of a woody aftertaste. Was it too ripe? Not ripe enough? Surprisingly, my Utah raised son-in-law loves it and jumped at the chance to finish mine.

I ran into what might have been more new information this past week when the P.A. taking my husband’s blood pressure used a wrist monitor on his right wrist. I was always told an arm cuff monitor was better because the pressure was only taken through one bone, whereas there are two in the wrist. I was also told that the left arm was best because it was closer to the heart. This advice was from my PCP’s nurse and that of my nephrologist. However, this P.A. insisted the wrist monitor measures atomic movement of the blood so it didn’t matter whether a wrist or arm cuff were used, nor which arm was used. It didn’t sound right to me.

This is from SlowItDownCKD 2014 and may be helpful here:

“Well, what about the different kinds of blood pressure monitors? I use a wrist monitor which my PCP is simply not thrilled with.  Her feeling is that I’m taking my pressure through two bones, the radius and the ulna, as opposed to only one bone, the humerus, with an arm device. There’s also the finger monitor, but that could be a problem if you have thin or cold fingers.

There are manual and battery operated versions of these monitors.  If you use an arm monitor, be aware that larger cuffs are available if needed. The one thing most blood pressure sites agree upon is that it’s not a good idea to rely on drugstore monitors for your readings.”

I have been researching for over two hours. I cannot find anything about atomic movement within the blood being measured by a blood pressure monitor of any kind. I’ve been to professional pages, checked studies, and even looked at advertisements. So, unless you have other information, I do believe I’ve been had. I just can’t wait to meet this young man at the follow up appointment in two weeks when I’ll ask him for resources and the monitor manufacturers’ information.

On another note, I’ve written about KDIGO during the last two years. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2017 and was repeated in the Sept. 17th blog in 2018.

“This stands for KIDNEY DISEASE | IMPROVING GLOBAL OUTCOMES. Their homepage at KDIGO.org states:

KDIGO MISSION – Improving the care and outcomes of kidney disease patients worldwide through the development and implementation of global clinical practice guidelines.’”

So why mention it again, you ask? Well, you know how I’m always saying I’m not a doctor and neither are you, but doctors need to know what we, as kidney patients, need to say? KDIGO is now inviting patients – including those with CKD – to join their patient network. What better way to be heard as a kidney patient? I joined and I hope you will, too. The link to join is:

https://sydneypublichealth.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_72LdurS2QicQFKd.

This is the announcement the Dr. Joel Topf (on Twitter as @kidney_boy) brought to my attention:

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’ll be Glowing!

Not really, but that was my first thought when a nuclear medicine (NM) test was ordered for me. It required radioactive material to be injected into my veins. The test is called NM Hepatobiliary Scan with Pharmacologic Intervention.

Let’s get a definition of hepatobiliary before we do anything else. Thank you MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=19515 for this one:

“Hepatobiliary: Having to do with the liver plus the gallbladder, bile ducts, or bile. For example, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can be applied to the hepatobiliary system. Hepatobiliary makes sense since “hepato-” refers to the liver and “-biliary” refers to the gallbladder, bile ducts, or bile.”

That’s my kind of definition. Clear and easy for those of us who are not doctors to understand. It makes sense, too, since we were exploring what I called discomfort and my PCP called pain just under the lowest rib on my right side… very close to the gall bladder. The more than occasional nausea helped her to decide this test was necessary.

According to the test report, this is how it works:

“TECHNIQUE:

Frontal standing images of the abdomen and pelvis were obtained immediately and 30 minutes following the intravenous administration of Tc99m IDA. Pharmacologic intervention with CCK (or equivalent) and/or morphine with additional dynamic imaging was also performed.”

I didn’t know what Tc99mIDA or CCK was, so I’m guessing you don’t either.  Wikipedia at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technetium_(99mTc)_mebrofenin  tells us,

“Technetium (99mTc) mebrofenin is a diagnostic radiopharmaceutical used for imaging of the liver and the gallbladder.”

Hmmm, we could have figured that out from the way the term is used in the context of the technique.

Let’s try CCK. This is also from Wikipedia but this time at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholecystokinin.

“Cholecystokinin (CCK or CCK-PZ; from Greek chole, “bile”; cysto, “sac”; kinin, “move”; hence, move the bile-sac (gallbladder)) is a peptide hormone of the gastrointestinal system responsible for stimulating the digestion of fat and protein. Cholecystokinin, officially called pancreozymin, is synthesized and secreted by enteroendocrine cells in the duodenum, the first segment of the small intestine.” 

Well, that’s fairly explanatory, but keep in mind that Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone.

I know, now you want to know the results. Back to the test report:

“HIDA scan:

Gallbladder clearly visualized. Gallbladder ejection fraction calculated at 37% at 30 minutes. Greater than 35% is normal.

Study Result Impression:

Gallbladder clearly visualized. Borderline abnormal gallbladder response to cholecystokinin challenge.”

Here’s where I got lost. If my gall bladder ejection fraction is normal, how can I have a borderline abnormal gall bladder response to cholecystokinin challenge? Yep, it’s time to make an appointment with my family doctor since she ordered these tests and, being who she is, can probably explain that in terms I can understand.  More on that after next week’s liver MRI and an appointment with her to discuss the findings of both tests.

While this is all interesting, what does it have to do with the kidneys? I went back to SlowItDownCKD 2013 to find out what I’d written about that after my New York daughter’s gall bladder was removed.

“After speaking with my daughter, I still wondered what gallstones have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease.  Searching the web only garnered this one article from January, 2009 … and the study only covered Taiwan. Of course, I found it at the National Institutes of Health at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19352299.

‘The prevalence of gallbladder stones in patients with Chronic Kidney Disease is significantly higher than in those without Chronic Kidney Disease. Our findings suggest that increasing age, Chronic Kidney Disease, body mass index > or =27 kg/m {greater than 59 pounds}, metabolic syndrome, and cirrhosis are the related factors for gallbladder stone formation.’

Now think about it another way: you already have a compromised immune system because you have CKD.  Gallstones can cause infection of the gallbladder. As in Nima’s experience, infection causes white blood cell elevation. So you know you have an infection, you might even realize it could be in the bile ducts, too.  But did you check to see if there’s infection in other areas of your body? That would mean you can read your own test results or have the kind of relationship with your doctors – especially your nephrologist – to freely ask questions.

As for what this organ does, this is what MedlinePlus at https://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v%3Aproject=medlineplus&v%3Asources=medlineplus-bundle&query=gall+bladder&_ga=2.56082859.126205281.1548540376-1108406265.1544652518 had to say.

‘Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under your liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by your liver to digest fat. As your stomach and intestines digest food, your gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. The duct connects your gallbladder and liver to your small intestine.’

Keep in mind that your liver, the largest organ in your body {The skin is actually the largest organ, but it’s external.} is the other organ that filters your blood.  Since your CKD has been diagnosed, your liver is already working harder. Add losing your gallbladder and you’ve got one very hard working – possibly overworked – liver.”

Needless to say, while I was taking this in stride, especially since my kidney function is the best it’s been in the over a decade since I’ve been diagnosed with CKD, I am now eager to have the liver MRI and get back to my primary care doctor (PCP) so she can explain what a lay person can’t understand from reading the results-  even with further researching.

A few announcements, if you please:

Our friends at @antidote_me are hosting the first of their new free monthly patient focused webinars. This one is about how medical research really works and is this Wednesday, January 30th. It’s a 15 minute webinar.  Register now: https://hubs.ly/H0gc_KV0.

Also, I write the blogs from a U.S. angle since that’s where I live. There is a new Facebook CKD support group which is from the British angle. It’s Chronic Kidney Disease Support Group for UK! Another is CKD Support UK. These are only two of several from across the sea. If you’d like to find the others, go to Facebook and in the search bar on top, enter CKD Support in UK. That little word “in” is what makes it searchable.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Double Whammy

Just as the flu was walking out the door, sinusitis walked in. No fair! Although, I must be feeling better because I’m starting to open all the doors and windows again.

I live in Arizona. We don’t have an actual winter, but we do have a flu season with all its accompanying ailments. Having a compromised immune system is not exactly a first choice, but I have Chronic Kidney Disease.

I know I need to slow down with this explanation. Good thinking. First off, what is the immune system? I went to NCBI, The National Center for Biotechnology Information at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/ for an answer.

“The immune system (from the Latin word immunis, meaning: “free” or “untouched”) protects the body like a guardian from harmful influences from the environment and is essential for survival. It is made up of different organs, cells and proteins and aside from the nervous system, it is the most complex system that the human body has.

As long as our body’s system of defense is running smoothly, we do not notice the immune system. And yet, different groups of cells work together and form alliances against just about any pathogen (germ). But illness can occur if the performance of the immune system is compromised, if the pathogen is especially aggressive, or sometimes also if the body is confronted with a pathogen it has not come into contact before.”

Notice the word “compromised” in the last sentence. According to Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/compromised, that means

“unable to function optimally, especially with regard to immune response, owing to underlying disease, harmful environmental exposure, or the side effects of a course of treatment.”

So when you have a compromised immune system, you are not receiving the full protection against germs that you could be receiving. Well, how does CKD affect the immune system?

My GFR (the numbers above the arc in the photo to the left and defined later in this blog) is usually between 49% and 59%. That means at any given time I’m missing quite a bit of the function normal kidneys would have. In other words, my kidneys are working more than twice as hard as those of someone without kidney disease. This is a fact that’s easy to forget now that I have the renal diet down pat … until I get sick… and it takes me longer to recuperate… or I slide right into another illness.

Let’s take a look at the jobs performed by the kidneys to see exactly why. This is what I wrote in SlowItDownCKD 2014:

“Your kidneys filter toxins and waste products from your blood.  They also regulate electrolyte levels and blood pressure and produce hormones, among their many jobs.”

Let’s say I eat some bad food. It would take me more than twice as long to recover and I could be more than twice as sick since my kidneys are compromised. Or maybe I actually took one of Bear’s medications instead of my own (which will never happen since they’re kept far, far from mine. This is just an example.) Same thing. I only have less than half the ability to remove a toxin from my body as someone with normal kidney function does. As for germs? You guessed it. My compromised immune system leaves me open to far more than I would be if I didn’t have CKD.

Now for sinusitius. I had that one covered in SlowItDownCKD 2013:

“The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acute-sinusitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351671 has this to say about acute sinusitis:

‘Acute sinusitis (acute rhinosinusitis) causes the cavities around your nasal passages (sinuses) to become inflamed and swollen. This interferes with drainage and causes mucus to build up.

With acute sinusitis, it may be difficult to breathe through your nose. The area around your eyes and face may feel swollen, and you may have throbbing facial pain or a headache.’

Before we get any more detailed here, a few reminders are in order {taken from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease’s Glossary}.

Acute – Extremely painful, severe or serious, quick onset, of short duration; the opposite of chronic.

Antibiotic – Medication used to treat infection.

Chronic – Long term, the opposite of acute.

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.”

Keeping it plain and simple, that just about covers my double whammy of sliding from the flu into sinusitis.

For those interested in KidneyX, this may be for you:

KidneyX: #RedesignDialysis Twitter Chat
The KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis prize challenge has a total prize purse of $2,625,000 and aims to accelerate the development and commercialization of next-generation dialysis products. Now through February 28, 2019, the KidneyX Redesign Dialysis competition will be accepting proposals for solutions or components of solutions that offer patients significant alternatives to dialysis as it is generally practiced today.
Innovators that are interested in applying for KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis are encouraged to participate in Twitter chat on January 24, 2019 from 1:00pm – 2:00pm EST.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and American Society of Nephrology will be available during the chat to answer your questions and provide more information about KidneyX, the Redesign Dialysis competition, and innovation in kidney care.. To participate and follow the chat, use the #RedesignDialysis hashtag.

For those of you who are caretakers for people with CKD, this may interest you:

Please join us on Wednesday, January 23 at 1 p.m. ET for an educational webinar titled: Taking Care of Yourself While Taking Care of Your Loved Ones – Coping Strategies for Kidney Patient Caregivers!
As a caregiver for a loved one with kidney disease, it is important to remember to take time for yourself. Hear from social worker Renee Bova-Collis, MSW, LCSW, and caregivers Brenda Vasser-Taylor and Ashley Martin … as they share coping strategies to help you take care of yourself so that you can support your loved ones.

 

Click here to Register!

 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information on how to join the webinar. To call-in without connecting to a computer, use this #:

United States: +1 (562) 247-8422

You will be asked to enter the following Access Code: 399-056-972#

Audio PIN: Shown after joining the webinar

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

And Yet Again

I didn’t think I’d be writing about the flu this year, yet I am. Why? Because, despite thinking I was safe since I didn’t have it in December as usual, I have it now. Actually, I’m in the I-feel-like-an-old-dishrag stage now. Humph, that’s probably why it took me six days to do the laundry (I’m still not done with the putting away) and the dishes. We were lucky enough to have my daughter and new son-in-law do the marketing for us. But it was only then that it became apparent she has it, too.

I have written before about the fact that the flu shot doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the flu, but that if you are one of the unlucky ones to get the flu after the shot, it will not be as virulent. Thank goodness. It’s day seven and I’m just now reaching the stage where I can do something… writing, dishes, laundry…IF I get back into bed for at least an hour between tasks. To be honest, sometimes I have to interrupt those tasks to take that hour rest.

I have read some good murder mysteries and thrillers while listening to silence. Then I could tolerate the television and discovered Dr. Bramwell on Amazon Prime. Terrific for someone who loves Victoriana (I did write Portal in Time and am seriously considering the requests for a sequel.)

But what’s different about the flu and the flu shot this year, I wondered as soon as I felt better enough to wonder about anything. This is the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/flu-season-updates-2018.htm. By the way, they have loads of information about this year’s flu season, but you may have to use the glossary which they so thoughtfully provide.

January 11, 2019 – With the 2018-2019 flu season well underway, CDC today estimated that so far this season, between about 6 million and 7 million people have been sick with flu, up to half of those people have sought medical care for their illness, and between 69,000 and 84,000 people have been hospitalized from flu. CDC expects flu activity to continue for weeks and continues to recommend flu vaccination and appropriate use of antiviral medications.

Flu vaccination is the first line of defense to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications, including death in children. Flu vaccines have been shown to be life-saving in children, in addition to having other benefits.  Flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense that can be used to treat flu illness. CDC recommends that people who are very sick or people who are at high risk of serious flu complications who develop flu symptoms should see a health care provider early in their illness for possible treatment with a flu antiviral drug.

CDC’s weekly FluView reports when and where influenza activity is occurring, what influenza viruses are circulating and their properties, and reports the impact influenza is having on hospitalization and deaths in the United States based on data collected from eight different surveillance systems.

So far this season, H1N1 viruses have predominated nationally, however in the southeast, H3N2 viruses have been most commonly reported. The number of states reporting widespread activity increased this week to 30 from 24 states last week. While levels of influenza-like-illness (ILI) declined slightly over the previous week in this week’s report, ILI remains elevated and 15 states and New York City continue to experience high flu activity. There also was a decline in the percent of respiratory specimens testing positive for flu at clinical laboratories however this number remains elevated also.  During some previous seasons, drops in ILI and the percent of specimens testing positive for flu have been observed following the holidays.”

Surprisingly to me, Business Insider at https://www.businessinsider.com/flu-shot-2018-effectiveness-availability-where-to-get-2018-9 answered my question about how the flu shot is different this year.

“The formulation has been changed in two key ways: the nasty H3N2 strain that sickened many people last year has been updated, and the influenza B virus targeted for protection in the vaccine has been changed, too. So far, the revamped vaccines look promising.

‘It appears that the virus is doing a little better job, if we look at what’s gone on in the southern hemisphere season,’ Webby said. [Richard Webby, an infectious disease expert at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.]

Down south in Australia, for example, it’s been a fairly mild flu season, with flu activity circulating at ‘low’ levels, according to the Australian Department of Health. That may not perfectly translate to an equally mild flu season up north, but what Webby’s seen so far suggests that the shot is also combatting the flu better than it did last year.

Okay, I took the vaccine, am having a less virulent bout of the flu but it’s still here. Now what? The Kidney Foundation of Canada at https://www.kidney.ca/treating-the-common-cold-and-flu—tips-for-kidney-patients offered a succinct answer:

  1. For most people with kidney disease, acetaminophen(Tylenol®) is safe to use for headache, pain and fever.
  2. Cold and flu medications that contain decongestants may increase blood pressure. In addition, avoid cough and cold medications that contain ASA or NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen (Aleve®). If you have to use a decongestant, use a nasal spray or nasal drops. (Note: these nasal sprays are habit forming. If you use them more than three days in a row, the blood vessels in your nose can become dependent on the spray.)
  3. Sore throat?Many cough syrups and throat lozenges contain sugar. Make sure you read the label to check the ingredients list, prior to use. Some sugar free or sucrose-free products are available on the market. Gargling with salt water may also be an effective way to soothe a sore throat.
  4. Avoid herbal remedies.Herbal medications and products are not regulated in the same way that pharmaceutical products are. Therefore, the list of ingredients is not always accurate and some herbal medicines have been found to contain pesticides, poisonous plants, hormones, heavy metals and other compounds that are potentially dangerous. Some herbal medications also include diuretics, high levels of potassium, and/or other ingredients that can affect the kidneys or interact with your prescription medications to change their effectiveness.
  5. Vitamin C is not the answer. High doses of vitamin C (500 mg or more) can cause damage to kidneys. There is a specially formulated multivitamin for people with kidney disease that has the right amount of vitamins that your kidneys can handle. Ask your healthcare team about this.

Questions?  Your pharmacist and members of your kidney health team are the best source of information. Ensure you read the label, even on over the counter medications that you’ve taken before, as ingredients do change from time to time. If you have severe symptoms that are lasting longer than 7 days, you should see your doctor.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

At the Heart of the Matter

Happy New Year! Here’s wishing you all a very healthy one. I, on the other hand, found myself in the cardiologist’s office the very first week of 2019. That was odd for me.

It all started when I asked my very thorough primary care physician what – if anything – it meant that my blood pressure reading was ten points higher in one arm than the other. By the way, she’s the one that suggested I take my blood pressure on a daily basis. Her nurse always used the left arm to take the reading, so I did too. Then I got curious about what the reading on the other arm would be and how much difference there would be between arms. I expected a point or two, not ten.

Although my readings had always been a bit high, they weren’t high enough to warrant extra attention… until I mentioned the ten point difference to my PCP. BAM! I had an appointment with the cardiologist.

This information in last year’s April 23’s blog will explain why:

“We know that hypertension is the number two cause of CKD. Moderating our blood pressure will (hopefully) slow down the progression of the decline of our kidney function. Kidney & Urology Foundation of America, Inc. at http://www.kidneyurology.org/Library/Kidney_Health/High_Blood_Pressure_and_Kidney_Disease.php explains this succinctly:

‘High blood pressure makes your heart work harder and, over time, can damage blood vessels throughout your body. If the blood vessels in your kidneys are damaged, they may stop removing wastes and extra fluid from your body. The extra fluid in your blood vessels may then raise blood pressure even more. It’s a dangerous cycle.’

And heart rate? The conclusion of a study published in the Journal of Nephrology reads:

‘Heart rate is an independent age-dependent effect modifier for progression to kidney failure in CKD patients.’

You can read the entire study at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232714804_Heart_rate

So we know that blood pressure and heart rate are important for Chronic Kidney Disease patients. Just in case you’ve forgotten, heart rate is a synonym for pulse which is the number of times your heart beats a minute.

MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=154135 offers more about what the difference between readings from both arms MAY mean:

“People whose systolic blood pressure — the upper number in their reading — is different in their left and right arms may be suffering from a vascular disease that could increase their risk of death, British researchers report.

The arteries under the collarbone supply blood to the arms, legs and brain. Blockage can lead to stroke and other problems, the researchers noted, and measuring blood pressure in both arms should be routine.

‘This is an important [finding] for the general public and for primary care doctors,’ said Dr. William O’Neill, a professor of cardiology and executive dean of clinical affairs at the University of Miami Miller School Of Medicine.

‘Traditionally, most people just check blood pressure in one arm, but if there is a difference, then one of the arteries has disease in it,’ he said.

The arteries that run under the collarbone can get blocked, especially in smokers and diabetics, he noted. ‘If one artery is more blocked than the other, then there is a difference in blood pressure in the arms,’ O’Neill explained.

‘Doctors should, for adults — especially adult smokers and diabetics — at some point check the blood pressure in both arms,’ he said. ‘If there is a difference it should be looked into further.’

The report appears in the Jan. 30 online edition of The Lancet. ”

Notice I capitalized may. That’s because, in my case, there apparently was no blockage. My cardiologist had a different view of things. He felt there wasn’t a problem unless the difference in readings between your two arms is more than 20 points and that your blood pressure would have to be much higher than my slightly elevated blood pressure before this could be considered a problem.

He made note of my diabetes and congratulated me for taking such good care of myself, especially since I’m a caretaker. I must have looked puzzled because he went on to explain that caretakers sometimes have a sort of martyr complex and are convinced they cannot take the time away from the person they’re caring for to care for themselves. And, yes, he did use the oxygen masks in an airplane analogy to point out how important it is for caretakers to care for themselves first.

Now that I’ve wandered on to the subject of caretakers, seemingly continuing the thread from last week’s blog, here’s a health screening from Path to Wellness that may interest you if you live in Arizona. I urge you to take part yourself and bring anyone you think may be affected or has someone in their lives that may have CKD.

What: The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona will host a FREE health screening, aiming to identify chronic diseases in their early stages in those at highest risk.

When: Saturday, January 26, 2019, 8:30am- 12:00pm (appointments highly recommended**)

Where: Betty Fairfax High School (8225 S. 59th Ave., Laveen, AZ 85339)

Individuals who are 18 years or older and have a family member with diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease, OR have high blood pressure or diabetes themselves are urged to attend this important event. Early detection means the possibility of preventing further, life-risking damage to the kidneys.

**Appointments may be scheduled by calling the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona at (602) 840-1644 (English) or (602) 845-7905 / (602)845-7912 (Spanish).

OR

Visit https://azkidney.org/pathtowellness and register online!

This medical screening includes immediate onsite results and medical education and is provided at absolutely no cost. The event is staffed with medical professionals, with the ability to screen 200 attendees.

About Path to Wellness: The Path to Wellness program is the product of a community collaboration between the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona and Cardio Renal Society of America. This January screening is provided in partnership with Adelante Healthcare and the Phoenix Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Sorority, Inc., and generously funded by the BHHS Legacy Foundation. Path to Wellness screenings are unique in that they try to target areas of cities where the high demographics of under-insured or at-risk individuals may have an opportunity to detect chronic health problems early on, in a cost-free environment. The screenings also offer the unique advantage of both on-site results, and post-screening education on chronic disease management.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Take Good Care of Yourself, Caretakers.

Tonight is New Year’s Eve. We all know what that means: resolutions. While they may be a good idea and we may intend to keep them when we make them, I think we can accept that most of us don’t. So instead of resolutions, I have some recommendations for a special group of people.

I am a Chronic Kidney Disease patient, holding steady at stage 3 for the last decade. While you all know that, I’m not so sure that many of you know that I am also an Alzheimer’s care partner. That’s what the Alzheimer’s Association calls the more commonly used term ‘caretaker.’ I love my husband, but this is hard… harder than I’d expected it to be, even though I’d been a caretaker before.

For those of you not in this position, a caretaker is “one that gives physical or emotional care and support,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caretaker.

The Alzheimer’s Association offered me quite a bit of advice about how to preserve my own health while being a care partner. Lori Hartwell’s Renal Support Network does, too. And then there are so many, many other organizations offering advice that always seems to be helpful. Now I offer it as recommendations to you, the care partners of your loved ones.

Why? The Family Caretaker Alliance at https://www.caregiver.org/taking-care-you-self-care-family-caregivers phrases the answer to this question so well:

“On an airplane, an oxygen mask descends in front of you. What do you do? As we all know, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important—and one of the most often forgotten—things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.”

I had trouble with this idea at first, thinking it selfish when it was my husband who needed help – not me. I was wrong. The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784 explains why:

As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you don’t realize that your own health and well-being are suffering. Watch for these signs of caregiver stress:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
  • Feeling tired often
  • Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Becoming easily irritated or angry
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling sad
  • Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications

Too much stress, especially over a long time, can harm your health. As a caregiver, you’re more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. In addition, you may not get enough sleep or physical activity, or eat a balanced diet — which increases your risk of medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Hmmm, that would explain the irritability and overeating, I suppose. But I had to do something about this or I’d be as large as my little house soon.

Let’s get back to Lori’s site for a minute. Dr. Michael Fisher guest blogged at https://www.rsnhope.org/rsn-blog/6-tips-to-survive-your-partners-kidney-disease-diagnosis/ and offered the following as one bit of advice:

Enlist friends and family to help you, or hire the help you need. Get a neighbor to drive the kids to and from school or enroll them in an after-school program for help with their homework; hire a housekeeper; negotiate flex-time or permission to work from home; and ask family members and friends to volunteer for regular assistance. This is an all-hands-on-deck occasion!”

He’s right. We now have a house cleaning service every other week, bottled water delivery, and a mobile vet. Decades ago when I was a caretaker for a different loved one and was in a pretty poor financial state, my friends and neighbors took my kids to school and after school activities. Family came on the weekends with marketing they’d done for us and to let me run down to the basement to do the laundry. While money makes it easier to have help, it’s not impossible to ask for help without money behind you.

U.S. News Health’s most important tip for caretakers is:

“If you’ve taken on the role of caregiver, the first thing to do is learn as much you can about your loved one’s disease or illness to know what to expectOtherwise, you’ll be driving blind.

Imagine getting in your car, turning on the ignition, closing your eyes and then driving. What do you think will happen? Before long, you’ll crash into something or someone, resulting in damage and even injuries.

The world’s roadways operate smoothly (most of the time) because drivers know what to expect and follow the rules. Likewise, caregivers who learn more about their care recipient’s disease will be more aware of the challenges that lie ahead.”

You can find them at https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2015/05/01/the-2-most-important-caregiver-tips.

I always go for education first; I was a teacher for over 50 years. But sometimes that just isn’t enough. I know, I couldn’t believe it either when I first realized that. So?  I started listening to the advice about how to take care of my emotions while care partnering. VeryWell Mind at https://www.verywellmind.com/caregiver-support-caregivers-and-stress-relief-3144520 offered the best recommendation for me:

“It may be difficult for you to find time alone, especially if you’re the sole provider of care, but don’t forget that you need to give to yourself in order to have the ability to give to others. However, taking an hour or two for journaling in a coffee shop, seeing a movie by yourself, getting exercise with a long walk, or going to a nearby park and immersing yourself in a good book are all excellent, restorative options that can help you to stave off burnout.”

I found I craved silence… or just listening to the birds or the horses that lived behind my house. When I could leave my husband alone and couldn’t get the silence I needed while being at home, I took off to a coffee shop with my Kindle. It helped. Hopefully these recommendations will help the caretakers among you.

Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve.

Until next year,

Keep living your life!

A Creatinine Christmas Present

Tomorrow is Christmas and a Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate. The day after Christmas Kwanzaa begins, so a Happy Kwanzaa to those of you who celebrate. But back to Christmas right now: today’s blog is a present to a reader who joined me way back when I first started blogging and has since become a close online friend.

You see, her creatinine is rising but she’s barely eating and – since she has multiple physical conditions – can’t exercise. She’s flummoxed and so was I because food and muscle waste are the two usual causes of rising creatinine levels in the blood. I decided to try to help her sort this out now even though she’ll be seeing her nephrologist right after the New Year.

A good place to start is always at the beginning. By this, I wonder if I mean the beginning of my Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy as the author of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and the blog or if I mean the basics about creatinine. Let’s combine them all. The following definition is from the book which became the earliest blogs:

Creatinine clearance: Compares the creatinine level in your urine with that in your blood to provide information about your kidney function”

Hmmm, that didn’t exactly work. Let’s try again. Bingo! It was in SlowItDownCKD 2014,

“Creatinine: chemical waste product that’s produced by our muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat. {MayoClinic.org}”

Red meat? No, that’s not it. My friend doesn’t eat meat at all, as far as I know. Beaumont Hospital Kidney Centre at http://www.beaumont.ie/kidneycentre-forpatients-aguidetokidneydisease-die offers the following information concerning food and creatinine:

“Protein intake from the diet is important during the progression of chronic kidney disease and also when you commence dialysis. The protein we eat is used for tissue repair and growth. Any unused protein is broken down into waste products, including urea and creatinine. As your kidneys are unable to excrete urea and creatinine properly, they build up in your blood and cause symptoms such as nausea and loss of appetite.

By eating large amounts of protein foods e.g. meat, fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, milk and yoghurt before commencing dialysis [Me here, that means those of us who are pre-dialysis like me], you will affect the buildup of urea and creatinine in your blood. An appropriate daily intake of protein should be advised by your dietician.

However, once dialysis treatment has commenced it is important to make sure that your body is getting enough protein to prevent malnutrition. Some of your stores of protein are lost during the haemodialysis and CAPD sessions. How much protein you need depends on your body size and is specific to each individual.”

And the ‘muscle metabolism’ in our definition? This deals with the way muscles use energy. The waste product of this process is creatinine.

Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320113.php had something to say about exercise and creatinine:

“Strenuous exercise, such as weight training or resistance exercise, may cause high creatinine levels.

Muscle activity produces creatinine; the more the muscles work, the more creatinine is in the blood. While regular exercise is essential for good health, overexertion can cause the creatinine levels in the blood to spike.

A 2012 study noted that intense exercise increased creatinine levels in the bloodstream temporarily. It may be best for people to avoid strenuous activity until they have completed any treatment for the cause of the high creatinine levels.

However, people should not avoid exercise altogether, except in some extreme circumstances.

To maintain their exercise regimen, people who like weight training or resistance exercises could switch to yoga and body weight exercises during treatment. People who prefer cardio exercises, such as running or cycling, could consider changing to walking or swimming.”

My friend does not exercise. So what else could it be that is raising her creatinine? I went to New Health Advisor at https://www.newhealthadvisor.com/causes-of-elevated-creatinine.html which was quite comprehensive in answering the question.

“Kidney diseases or disorders can lead to high creatinine levels. Since the kidneys are the filters of wastes from the bloodstream, kidney damage means that there will be a buildup of creatinine beside other waste products in the body. Kidney conditions such as glomerulonephritis, acute tubular necrosis, kidney infection (pyelonephritis) and kidney failure can cause high creatinine levels. Reduced blood flow to the kidneys can also have a similar effect.

Other causes of elevated creatinine levels in blood include shock, dehydration, and congestive heart failure. These conditions lead to a reduction in blood flow to the kidneys, which interferes with their normal functions. High blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy, muscular dystrophy, rhabdomyolysis, eclampsia, and preeclampsia can also cause elevated serum creatinine.

In case a patient with renal dysfunction gets an infection like pneumonia, urinary tract infection, intestinal infection, or a cold, the creatinine level may rise within a short time.

Urine abnormalities such as long-term hematuria and proteinuria can also lead to high creatinine levels.

Taking drugs that have renal toxicity properties can also raise the levels of creatinine in the bloodstream. Such medications include chemotherapy drugs, ACE inhibitors, and NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen among others.”

They also included excessive exercise, too much protein in the diet, fatigue, and inadequate rest.

I noticed each site I looked at mentioned that creatinine increase could be temporary. Perhaps a re-test is in order for my friend.

I know you’re already asking why she was surprised to find this on her lab report. She already has CKD which could be a cause of high creatinine levels. What worried her is that they are rising. Is her CKD getting worse? Or did she neglect to get adequate rest (as one possibility) before this particular blood test?

I can’t answer that since I’m not a doctor, although I hope I’ve been able to alleviate her worry until she gets to go to her nephrologist next week. Here’s hoping this was a welcome Christmas present, my friend.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Different Kind of Fatigue

Busy with the holidays? Chanukah has passed, but we still have Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the New Year coming up. Feeling like you’re just too tired to deal with them? Maybe even fatigued? What’s the difference, you ask. Let’s go to Reuters at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-fatigued-tired-s-idUSCOL75594120070207 for the answer:

“’People who are tired,’ Olson [Dr. Karin Olson, with the faculty of nursing at the University of Alberta] explained, ‘still have a fair bit of energy but are apt to feel forgetful and impatient and experience muscle weakness following work, which is often alleviated by rest.

People who are fatigued, on the other hand, experience difficulty concentrating, anxiety, a gradual decrease in stamina, difficulty sleeping, and increased sensitivity to light. They also may skip social engagements once viewed as important to them.’”

Got it. When I was describing how tired I was to another caretaker, her suggestion was to have my adrenals checked. Hmmm, what does that have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease I wondered. Let’s find out.

First of all, what and where are the adrenals? As I reported in SlowItDownCKD 2016,

“According to Reference.com, a new site for me at https://www.reference.com/science/function-adrenal-gland-72cba864e66d8278:

“Adrenal glands are triangular-shaped, measure approximately 1.5 inches high and 3 inches long and are composed of two parts, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The outer part is the adrenal cortex, which creates cortisol, aldosterone and androgen hormones. The second part is the adrenal medulla, which creates noradrenaline and adrenaline.

Cortisol is a hormone that controls metabolism and helps the body react to stress, according to Endocrineweb. It affects the immune system and lowers inflammatory responses in the body. Aldosterone helps regulate sodium and potassium levels, blood volume and blood pressure. Androgen hormones are steroid hormones that are converted to female or male hormones in other parts of the body.

Noradrenaline helps regulate blood pressure, increasing it during times of stress, notes Endocrineweb. Adrenaline is often associated with the adrenal glands, and it increases the heart rate and blood flow to the muscles and the brain.”

Okay then, is adrenal fatigue exactly what it sounds like? According to Dr. James L. Wilson at http://adrenalfatigue.org/what-is-adrenal-fatigue/:

“Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger.

You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or ‘gray’ feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.”

I still wanted to know what the connection to CKD was. LiveStrong at https://www.livestrong.com/article/139350-adrenal-glands-kidneys/ had the following to say about the connection:

“Blood Pressure

The adrenals and kidneys also work together to regulate blood pressure. The kidneys make renin, which is a chemical messenger to the adrenals. The renin put out by the kidneys signals the adrenals to make three hormones: angiotensin I, angiotensin II and aldosterone. These hormones regulate fluid volumes, vascular tension and sodium levels, all of which affect blood pressure.

Prednisone

Many kidney patients take prednisone to minimize the amount of protein spilled into the urine by the kidneys. Prednisone also has a powerful effect on the adrenal glands.

Prednisone acts as a corticosteroid, just like the ones produced by the adrenals. When patients take prednisone, the adrenals cease producing corticosteroids. When patients stop taking prednisone, they gradually taper the dosage down to give the adrenal glands the opportunity to ‘wake up’ and start producing corticosteroids again”.

I don’t take prednisone and my blood pressure is under control via medication. Where does this leave me… or you if you’re in the same situation?

I went to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real#1 for more information.

“Your body’s immune system responds by slowing down when you’re under stress. Your adrenal glands, which are small organs above your kidneys, respond to stress by releasing hormones like cortisol. They regulate your blood pressure and how your heart works.

According to the theory, if you have long-term stress (like the death of a family member or a serious illness), your adrenal glands can’t continuously produce the extra cortisol you need to feel good. So adrenal fatigue sets in.”

This makes sense to me, although adrenal fatigue is not accepted by the Endocrine Society as a diagnose and there are warnings that accepting it as one may mask another problem (read disease) with the same symptoms. I am a caretaker as well as a CKD patient. I am under constant stress even when I’m sleeping. You’ve heard of sleeping with one eye open? I sleep with one ear open, but I do sleep so I can rule out tiredness.

While writing this blog has helped me understand what adrenal fatigue is and how it might affect me, I’m still going to keep my cardiology appointment to explore why my blood pressure is often ten points higher in one arm than another. That’s also a possible heart problem. Maybe adrenal fatigue is affecting how my heart is working … or maybe it’s a blockage somewhere. Why take a chance?

In the meantime, I intend to partake of as many of those holiday party invitations as I can. I can always come home early if I have to or I can rest before they start. Here’s hoping you do the same whether or not you think you have adrenal fatigue.

Oh, there’s still plenty of time to order any of my books on Amazon.com or B&N.com in time for the remaining holidays. There are links to the right of the blog for the kidney books. Click on these links for the fiction: Portal in Time and Sort of Dark Places.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Happy Holidays!

The holiday season is upon us full strength right now, but you have Chronic Kidney Disease. You don’t need the stress associated with the holiday season. The National Kidney Fund at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/Stress_and_your_Kidneys explains why:

“As the blood filtering units of your body, your kidneys are prone to problems with blood circulation and blood vessels. High blood pressure and high blood sugar can place an additional strain or burden on your kidneys. People with high blood pressure and diabetes are at a higher risk for kidney disease. People with kidney disease are at higher risk for heart and blood vessel disease. If you already have heart and blood vessel disease and kidney disease, then the body’s reactions to stress can become more and more dangerous. Therefore, whether your goal is to prevent heart and/or kidney disease, or improve your health while living with heart and/or kidney disease, managing stress is an important part of maintaining your overall health.”

So what’s a CKD patient to do? First, you need to identify that you are stressed. In an article on caretaker stress at https://www.davita.com/education/ckd-life/caregiver/caregiver-stress-and-chronic-kidney-disease, DaVita outlined some of the symptoms. These are the same whether you’re the patient or the caretaker. I happen to be both a CKD patient and my Alzheimer’s husband’s caretaker, although we call me his care partner as suggested by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Physical signals

  • Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Change in posture—walking with your head down or with a stooped posture
  • Chronic headaches, neck pain or back pain

Emotional signals

  • Anger
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Inability to think clearly or concentrate
  • Excessive mood swings
  • Feelings of sadness that don’t go away

Behavioral signals

  • Withdrawing from usual activities and relationships
  • Quitting or changing jobs frequently
  • Becoming more impulsive and over-reacting to things
  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better

Uh-oh, I recognize quite a few of these in myself. How about you?

Today is the last day of the eight day Chanukah celebration for us and all of you who celebrate this holiday. We usually throw a blowout party for anywhere from 30 to 50 people. But just a couple of months ago, we hosted a blowout pre-wedding potluck party for my daughter and her fiancé … and it was wonderful. Yet, it was clear that we can no longer handle undertaking such large parties. I had expressed my doubts last year about how long we’d be able to keep up the Chanukah party.

I was getting more and more stressed dealing with Bear’s medical issues and my own and then the party, so I did what I consider the logical thing to do, I delegated. We’ll still have the party, but a friend of my daughter’s will be hosting it. Instead of assigning different foods to specific guests, we’ve asked them to let us know what they’re be bringing. No prepping of the house (Shiloh sheds an entire other dog every few days) and no post party clean up. More importantly, no stress. I just bring the religious articles necessary and toss in a batch of cranberry chicken as my food contribution. Easy-peasy.

My very capable neighbor came in with cookies she’d just baked the other day. She knows about Bear’s sweet tooth. We started chatting as we’re wont to do and she brought up the point that she finds delegating stressful. Amy wants to make sure whatever it is that’s being delegated is done and done well, so she has to be careful about who she choices. I see her point, but I think that if you know your friends and family and how responsible (or not) each is, this shouldn’t be a problem.

But enough about me. What else can you do to reduce your stress at this time of year?

One thing is make sure you aren’t overeating. Avoiding comfort eating can be a real struggle. According to Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Sreedhar Mandayam in an article at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-11-overeating-holidays-bad-kidneys.html,

“For people with kidney disease, even eating normal amounts of food puts stress on their kidneys. If you consume large amounts of carbohydrates, protein or fat the stress on an overworked, half functioning kidney will get even worse and can accelerate your kidney dysfunction.”

How about exercising? This is when I get on the exercise bike and watch a good movie. Why? The Mayo Clinic at  https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469 explains far better than I could:

Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.

  • It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.
  • It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements.

As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do.

  • It improves your mood. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.

 

Of course, you could give yourself permission to curl up with a good book for half an hour or so. You might like Portal in Time or Sort of Dark Places for sheer escapism or any of the SlowItDownCKD series (including What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease) for edifying yourself. Oh, the shameless self-promotion here! All are available on Amazon although,personally, if I’m stressed, I want pure escapism.

 

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Kidney Transplant: Cure or Treatment? 

I’ve already mentioned that there’s an active network of kidney disease awareness advocates… and that we find each other. I met Steve at a think tank last spring. I wasn’t really sure why I’d been invited, but as soon as he and his wife started talking, I knew why they were.

I hesitated to ask Steve to guest blog since, at the time, I was only writing about Chronic Kidney Disease. Since then, readers have asked me to write about all sorts of topics dealing with the kidneys, not just CKD. So I did. Steve and his thoughts on being a transplant fit right in to this new agenda. When I did ask him to guest blog, I received a return response that was one of the most gracious acceptances… and they’ve all been gracious. I’ll turn the blog over to Steve Winfree now.

The other day I was speaking with some friends and one made mention to me how incredibly lucky I was. I received a new kidney from my wife, Heather, just last year and I was feeling as if I were on top of the world. Given that fact, I had to agree with him, but I inquired further to find out what he meant. He responded that it must be such a relief to be cured and to no longer have to worry about kidney issues, dialysis, and the mess that comes with it.

That really got me thinking about what a kidney transplant actually means outside of the wonderful opportunity for a second chance at a more normal life. It also reminded me that there is a knowledge gap between those close to kidney failure and those who are not.

It is essential that, as a kidney transplant recipient, I clarify the difference between a cure and a treatment. Chronic Kidney Disease is a disease that progresses over time. This is due to the fact that CKD is a disease in which your body attacks your kidneys, or is a genetic disorder (PKD), or is a result of a primary disease such as diabetes and/or high blood pressure. The common factor among the types of kidney disease is that an outside source, not the kidney itself, is the reason for the issues.

This is why receiving a new kidney is a treatment and not a cure. A genetic disorder is still active in your body even when the new kidney is placed. Diabetes and high blood pressure can still be prevalent even with a new kidney, thus causing the implanted kidney to be affected in the same way as the old one. It is due to these reasons that a transplant is a treatment and not a cure. My new kidney has allowed my body to filter out the toxins much more easily, freed me from dialysis, and granted me the ability to get around easier since my arthritis was derived from my kidney disease.

The truth is that while this second opportunity at a much better life is an enormous blessing, the reality is that there is a good chance I will need another transplant one day. The reason is that the cause of my initial kidney failure is still within my body and attacking the new kidney. That is in addition to another main reason that a new kidney is not a final cure: organ rejection.

A new kidney is looked at as a foreign object by your body. Our bodies are designed to keep the body in balance and when something out of the ordinary, such as a virus invading, it attacks to bring balance back. The same is applied to a kidney that is transplanted from another source. Your body sees it as a foreign object and attacks it. That is why we must take immunosuppressant drugs to trick our bodies into not realizing there is a foreign organ inside.

With all of this being said about my new transplant being a treatment and not a cure, I want to mention how my life has changed forever. At the age of 33, I feel better right now than I have since I was a young teenager. My entire adult life has been spent in hospitals and doctors’ offices. I am now free to use my time to travel, enjoy life, and be the foster parent that I have always wanted to be.

A big part of receiving a kidney transplant is the medicine that is involved. The medicine you have to take every day is known as an immunosuppressant, or anti-rejection. While this is a medicine that you must take for the rest of your life, there are steps you can take to ensure that you are able to receive the medicine in an affordable manner. Kidney transplant patients qualify for Medicare. Medicare helps take care of a lot of the costs associated with taking these medications, but not all of it. The best advice I can give you in regards to your medications is to educate yourself on Medicare, MediGap, manufacturer coupons, and be in a close relationship with your transplant team’s social worker. It can be overwhelming at times, but I promise you that there are resources out there to help you!

I am extremely lucky in the fact that my wife, Heather, donated her kidney to me. While this is a treatment, it is the most remarkable and life changing treatment I have ever been blessed to receive! While all kidney disease patients would love to be cured, we understand that will never be the case, but that does not mean our lives cannot be just as remarkable and enjoyable with our treatments.

While we all watched our different renal diets during the weekend we were together, I never once saw Steve or Heather bemoan their new regiment with the transplanted kidney. While they talked about the exorbitant cost of the medications, they were accepting. One other thing I noticed about this delightful couple is that they were grateful every minutes of the time we spent together. I’m hoping Steve’s transplant lasts him as long as is medically feasible.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Something New and Entirely Different

I sit here trying to write this week’s blog and being interrupted every five minutes by a long involved commentary about one thing or another. Why do I tolerate it? Because it’s Bear, my Bear, my husband who is interrupting. Why not just ask him not to, you say. Well, it’s involved. Basically, it’s because he has Alzheimer’s, doesn’t know how long winded he’s being, and feels terribly insulted when I ask him not to interrupt so I can write.

Sometimes, we can have a conversation without the interruptions and without the involved commentary. Obviously, not right now, but during one of these conversations, I explained to him that I had been asked to write about his Alzheimer’s but felt I needed to preserve his privacy. This good man blew that up. He said something to the effect that if it’s going to help even one person to know what he experiences, what I experience, with this disease, then I was obliged to write about it. His privacy wasn’t more important than that.

Now you have just an inkling of why I love him… and I do, Alzheimer’s or not. Since this is my kidney disease blog, it would make sense to look for any connections between Alzheimer’s and kidney disease. If they exist, that is.

I was not happy to find the following on The National Kidney Foundation’s page at https://www.kidney.org/news/ekidney/august08/Dementia_august08

“People with albuminuria were about 50% more likely to have dementia than people without albuminuria, Dr. Joshua I. Barzilay, at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, and his research team report. The association between the two conditions was still strong after controlling for age, education and risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and cholesterol levels. There was a weaker relationship between albuminuria and mild cognitive impairment.”

By now it’s common knowledge to my readers that diabetes is the foremost cause of Chronic Kidney Disease with high blood pressure (hypertension) being the second.

How about some reminders right about now?

The American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/common-terms/?loc defines the most common type of diabetes in the following manner:

“diabetes mellitus (MELL-ih-tus)
a condition characterized by hyperglycemia resulting from the body’s inability to use blood glucose for energy. In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin and therefore blood glucose cannot enter the cells to be used for energy. In Type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body is unable to use insulin correctly.”

As for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, The National Library of Medicine PubMed Health was able to help us out:

“It happens when the force of the blood pumping through your arteries is too strong. When your heart beats, it pushes blood through your arteries to the rest of your body. When the blood pushes harder against the walls of your arteries, your blood pressure goes up.”

Keep this in mind for later. Here’s the definition of albumin from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

Albumin: Water soluble protein in the blood.

As mentioned in SlowItDownCKD 2013, “according to the physicians’ journal BMJ: ‘albuminuria [is] leakage of large amounts of the protein albumin into the urine.’”

Many of us with CKD have albuminuria at one time or another. Does that mean that 50% of us are going to develop dementia? No, not at all. According to the National Kidney Foundation, that 50% of us with albuminuria are MORE LIKELY to develop dementia, not GOING TO.

I get it. By now, most of you are probably asking what Alzheimer’s has to do with dementia. I popped right over to the Alzheimer’s Association’s (my new best friend) website at https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers  for an explanation.

“Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.”

I’ll bet you want a definition of dementia now. Let’s go to Healthline.com at https://www.healthline.com/health/dementia for one:

“Dementia is a decline in cognitive function. To be considered dementia, mental impairment must affect at least two brain functions. Dementia may affect:

  • memory
  • thinking
  • language
  • judgment
  • behavior”

It’s not surprising that the two definitions look so much alike. Alzheimer’s is one of the ten kinds of dementia that I know about. Different websites have different numbers for how many different kinds of dementia there are. I used the information from MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/dementia/article.htm#what_are_alzheimers_vascular_and_frontotemporal_dementia

Did you keep the definition of albumin in mind? The key word in that is protein… and that’s where the connection between Alzheimer’s and CKD lies. The information is from an unusual source for me to use, Science Magazine at https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/alzheimer-s-protein-may-spread-infection-human-brain-scans-suggest:

 “Tau is one of two proteins—along with β-amyloid—that form unusual clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have long debated which is most important to the condition and, thus, the best target for intervention. Tau deposits are found inside neurons, where they are thought to inhibit or kill them, whereas β-amyloid forms plaques outside brain cells.”

I realize this is getting very technical and may concentrate on particular elements of this connection in future blogs, but right now, I’d like to remind you that the National Kidney Fund is hosting a webinar “Eating healthy with diabetes and kidney disease” in recognition of National Diabetes Awareness Month on Wednesday, November 28, 2018 from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. EST.

Again, diabetes… the number one cause of Chronic Kidney Disease. Read more about CKD, diabetes, and hypertension (as well as many other topics) in the SlowItDownCKD series and What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. All eight books are available in print and digital on Amazon.com and B & N.com.

Did you know that the first day of Chanukah is December 3rd? We start celebrating Chanukah the night before the first day and celebrate for eight nights… and there are eight books. What a coincidence! (Just planting a seed here, folks.)

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Shining a Light on 1in9 

Last week, I began my blog post by mentioning that kidney disease awareness advocates have a habit of finding each other. This time, we had a little help.  I transferred to a new nephrologist because he was so much closer to my house. We spent some time getting to know each other as people new to each other do. Then he told me about another patient of his who is also working on spreading awareness, but via a documentary. Raymond, a transplant recipient that you’ll meet in a moment, and his brother who is also his donor, are both veterans. It made sense to me when his wife and partner on their documentary, Analyn Scott, suggested I post her guest blog about their project today since Veterans’ Day which was yesterday. Readers, meet Analyn; Analyn, meet the readers of the blog.

By now it shouldn’t surprise me that as I’m out and about I’m constantly meeting more and more people with a connection to kidney disease. That was not the case 21 years ago, or even four years ago for that matter. What changed? The opening of my eyes to statistics I was previously unaware of, and frankly I found to be quite shocking and unacceptable. I’ll get to those stats a little later.

21 years ago this month I met my now husband, Raymond Scott, on a blind date. A year out of the Army, here was this 29 year old handsome, kind, Southern gentlemen that swept me off my feet. Little did either of us know that three months later his kidneys would unexpectedly fail and that our journey would lead us to where we are today.

Like many others, although Raymond ‘crashed’ into dialysis, his previous medical records revealed that he had Kidney Disease, but he was not properly made aware of his status or what he could do to improve it. So our journey with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) began together with Raymond finding out he had End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and needing to start on dialysis right away.

Throughout the past 20, going on 21 years, Raymond has been on both peritoneal dialysis and in-center hemodialysis, had a kidney transplant that lasted for five years, and for the past five years has his hemodialysis treatments administered by me five days a week from the comforts of our home. With that, we’ve also had many twists and turns with Raymond’s health that often go along with ESRD. But, despite our own experiences, it wasn’t until we were invited as guests to attend the National Kidney Foundation’s Dancing With The Stars Arizona 2015 Gala that our eyes would start to be opened to the staggering statistics surrounding Kidney Disease.

As we enjoyed the lively and energetic dance performances I turned to Raymond and teasingly said, “Hey, that could be you dancing next year.” My eyes got big and my giggles stopped, and before I could get the words out of my mouth, Raymond already knew that look on my face very well and anticipated my next words, “Wait, why not you? You can do this!.”

Sure enough, Raymond was the first celebrity star dancer who was an active dialysis patient at the National Kidney Foundation’s 10th Annual Dancing With the Stars Arizona Gala on February 20th, 2016…..18 years to the exact day that his kidneys failed! He and his dance partner and instructor, Brianna Santiago, spent six months of grueling practices preparing for their energetic performance to Pharrell William’s song Happy, demonstrating the improved quality of life home dialysis can provide, and that dialysis does not have to be a death sentence.

As we picked up the torch of advocacy, we were led to start filming a documentary and create a non-profit organization to create hope and change the trajectory of kidney disease. As I was brainstorming with a dear friend about potential names for the organization, she said, “Wait, go back to that statistic you mentioned: 26 Million Americans, 1 in 9 adults have Kidney Disease….that’s it…..1in9.” That and meeting our incredible videographer was how 1in9 was birthed!

You may have guessed it, but 1 in 9 American adults having Kidney Disease was one of those stats that caught us off guard. And hearing that 90% of those with CKD weren’t aware was totally unacceptable to us. Diabetes is the leading cause of Kidney Disease, and high blood pressure….which took Raymond’s kidneys….is second. Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the U.S. and kills more people than breast cancer or prostate cancer. Surprising, right? It sure was to us, and we figured if this was news to us after all these years of living with it, then the general population must really be in the dark.

Our vision for 1in9 is to save millions of lives globally through awareness, prevention, and expedited research and development of regenerative medicine treatments and solutions. Last year our family headed out across country on an RV tour to raise awareness and film, while keeping up Raymond’s dialysis treatments five days a week on the RV. We met some incredible people near and far that continue to inspire us to keep pushing the wheels of change. Like our friends at…..

University of Arizona http://deptmedicine.arizona.edu/news/2017/1in9-kidney-challenge-founders-visit-ua-nephrology-faculty-researchers

Washington University https://nephrology.wustl.edu/1in9-kidney-awareness-documentary-visits-division-nephrology/

The Veterans’ Administration Medical Center in Washington DC https://www.washingtondc.va.gov/features/Living_Well_with_Kidney_Disease.asp

And our visit to UCSF with Dr. Shuvo Roy, co-Director of The Kidney Project, where we were able to hold the 3D printed bio-artificial kidney prototype in our own hands! Friends, if you haven’t already heard, change is not only on the way, it’s here!

We are still filming our documentary, releasing our 1in9 Compilation Book next March, and excited about other impactful programs we are launching that will help us bring Kidney Disease out of the public shadows of silence and misunderstanding and confront it head on with solutions.

To learn more and link arms to help keep the torch illuminating bright on our life saving mission please visit, follow, and/or contact us at: www.1in9kidneychallenge.com 
www.facebook.com/1in9kidneychallenge/ 1in9kidneychallenge@gmail.com

Analyn and Raymond have asked me to contribute a chapter to their book. I will be delighted to do so. As a Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocate, I can’t begin to tell you how much pleasure I have at meeting more and more people with the same mission in life. We get to help each other spread awareness.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Yet Another One

Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocates have a tendency to hang out together online. One who has become a good buddy and happens to live in Hawaii (Now you see why we’re online buddies.), and I were going back and forth about how it’s important to be what I call a lifelong learner. To put it another way, someone who investigates that about which they don’t know. The timing was good.

A reader soon started communicating with me about tuberous sclerosis complex (TS). I was polite. I was patient. And I had no clue what this had to do with kidney disease, although the word “tuberous” caught my eye. By the way, Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com defines tuberous as “characterized by the presence of rounded or wartlike prominences or tubers.” So I did what any curious, intelligent lifelong learner would do. I asked… and the response was an eye opener.

What she, the reader, sent me led to my going back to my old friend The National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine. This definition is from their website at https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/tuberous-sclerosis-complex,

“Tuberous sclerosis complex is a genetic disorder characterized by the growth of numerous noncancerous (benign) tumors in many parts of the body. These tumors can occur in the skin, brain, kidneys, and other organs, in some cases leading to significant health problems.”

So, that’s the connection to kidney disease: tumor growth on the kidney… and, according to this definition, it’s genetic. It wasn’t mentioned there, but I remember thinking that it’s also a rare disease.

I thought I’d hop over to National Organization for Rare Diseases at https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/tuberous-sclerosis/ for more information, just in case it really was a rare disease. It’s a good thing I did because as it turned out, this is not only a genetic disease, but one that can also be caused by mutation:

“In many instances, an alteration causing tuberous sclerosis occurs as a new (sporadic or de novo) mutation, which means that the gene alteration has occurred at the time of the formation of the egg or sperm for that child only, and no other family member will be affected. The disorder is not inherited from or ‘carried’ by a healthy parent. However, such alterations can be passed on through dominant inheritance (where a trait is transmitted from either an affected mother or father to their child).”

I needed to know more so I poked around looking for the symptoms. My first stop was the ever reliable Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberous-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20365969 :

“Although the signs and symptoms are unique for each person with , they can include:

  • Skin abnormalities. Most people with tuberous sclerosis have patches of light-colored skin, or they may develop small, harmless areas of thickened, smooth skin or reddish bumps under or around the nails. Facial growths that begin in childhood and resemble acne also are common.
  • Seizures. Growths in the brain may be associated with seizures, which can be the first symptom of tuberous sclerosis. In small children, a common type of seizure called infantile spasm shows up as repetitive spasms of the head and legs.
  • Cognitive disabilities. Tuberous sclerosis can be associated with developmental delays and sometimes intellectual disability or learning disabilities. Mental health disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also can occur.
  • Behavioral problems. Common behavioral problems may include hyperactivity, self-injury or aggression, or issues with social and emotional adjustment.
  • Kidney problems. Most people with tuberous sclerosis develop noncancerous growths on their kidneys, and they may develop more growths as they age.
  • Heart issues. Growths in the heart, if present, are usually largest at birth and shrink as the child gets older.
  • Lung problems. Growths that develop in the lungs may cause coughing or shortness of breath, especially with physical activity or exercise. These benign lung tumors occur more often in women than in men.
  • Eye abnormalities. Growths can appear as white patches on the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina). These noncancerous growths don’t always interfere with vision.”

Nope, not enough yet. Even though growths on the kidneys were mentioned, I wanted to know about diagnosing this rare disease. This time I turned to Healthline (Yes, the same Healthline that twice deemed this blog one of the top six kidney blogs.) at https://www.healthline.com/health/tuberous-sclerosis#diagnosis . This is what I found there:

“TS is diagnosed by genetic testing or a series of tests that includes:

an MRI of the brain

a CT scan of the head

an electrocardiogram

an echocardiogram

a kidney ultrasound

an eye exam

looking at your skin under an Wood’s lamp, which emits ultraviolet light”

But what about a cure or treatment? Is there any? According to MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/tuberous_sclerosis_complex_tsc/article.htm#how_is_tsc_treated ,

“There is no cure for TSC, although treatment is available for a number of the symptoms. Antiepileptic drugs may be used to control seizures. Vigabatrin is a particularly useful medication in TSC, and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of infantile spasms in TSC, although it has significant side effects. The FDA has approved the drug everolimus (Afinitor®) to treat subependymal giant cell astrocytomas (SEGA brain tumors) and angiomyolipoma kidney tumors. Specific medications may be prescribed for behavior problems. Intervention programs including special schooling and occupational therapy may benefit individuals with special needs and developmental issues. Surgery may be needed in case of complications connected to tubers, SEN or SEGA, as well as in risk of hemorrhage from kidney tumors. Respiratory insufficiency due to LAM can be treated with supplemental oxygen therapy or lung transplantation if severe.”

I find myself flabbergasted that, yet again, there is so much to learn for this particular lifelong learner. Wait, you should also know there is an association for those with the disease. It’s the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance. The following link is for the page that explains how this disease affects the kidneys: https://www.tsalliance.org/about-tsc/signs-and-symptoms-of-tsc/kidneys/. Should you be newly diagnosed with this disease or know someone who has been, that’s where you find easily understood information and support. You can also click on to their home page if you want to know how it affects other parts of the body.

That is plenty to absorb for one day.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Where Did This All Come From?

Some people think SlowItDownCKD is a business; it’s not. Some think it’s a profit maker; it’s not. So, what is it you ask? It’s a vehicle for spreading awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease and whatever goes along with the disease. Why do I do it? Because I had no idea what it was, nor how I might have prevented the disease, nor how to deal with it effectively once I was diagnosed.

At that time I was a college instructor. My favorite course to teach was Research Writing. I was also a writer with an Academic Certificate in Creative Non-Fiction and a bunch of publications under my belt. It occurred to me that I couldn’t be the only one who had no clue what this new-to-me disease was and how to handle living with it. I knew how to research and I knew how to write, so why not share what I learned?

I wasn’t sure of what had to be done to share or how to do it. I learned by trial and error. People were so kind in teaching me, pointing out what might work better, even suggesting others that might be interested in what I was doing. I love people.

First came the books. I’d written quite a few how to(s), study guides, articles, and literary guides so the writing was not new to me. I asked for suggestions as to what to do with my writing and that’s when I learned about unscrupulous, price gouging vanity publishers. I’m still paying for that mistake with my first book What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, but it was a learning experience.

You already know the blog was born of necessity when an Indian doctor explained to me that he wanted his new patients to read What Is It and How Did I Early It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, but they couldn’t even afford the bus fare to the clinic. That’s when I got the bright idea of blogging a chapter a week so he could translate and print the blog post, and then the patients that did make it to the clinic could bring the blog back to their villages for others to read.

It would work! But first I had to teach myself how to blog. I made some boo-boos and lost a bunch of blogs until I got it figured out. So why do I keep blogging? There always seems to be more to share about CKD. Each week, I wonder what I’ll write… and the ideas keep coming.

Then my New York daughter, Nima, started teaching me about social media. What???? You could post whatever you wanted to? And Facebook wasn’t the only way to reach the public at large? Hello LinkedIn. A friend who is a professional photographer asked me why I wasn’t using my fun photography habit to promote awareness. What??? You could do that? Hello Instagram. My step-daughters love Pinterest. That got me to thinking…. Then someone I met at a conference casually mentioned she offers Twitter workshops. What kind of workshops? She showed me how to use Twitter to raise CKD awareness.

When I was diagnosed back in 2008, there weren’t that many reader friendly books on anything having to do with CKD. Since then, more and more books on the subject have been published. I’m laughing along with you, but I don’t mean just SlowItDownCKD 2011, SlowItDownCKD 2012 (These two were The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, until I realized how unwieldy both the book and the title were – another learning experience), SlowItDownCKD 2013, SlowItDownCKD 2014 (These two were formerly The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2), SlowItDownCKD 2015, SlowItDownCKD 2016, and SlowItDownCKD 2017. By the way, I’m already working on SlowItDownCKD 2018. Each book contains the blogs for that year. 

Have you read the guest blogs or book review blogs to get a taste of what’s available now? Last week, Suzanne Ruff guest blogged. She wrote The Reluctant Donor, which I just wrote a review for on Amazon. Her guest blog explains what her book is about. Don’t forget Dr. Mandip S. Kang’s book, The Doctor’s Kidney Diets which also contains so much non-dietary information that we as CKD patients need to know. Another very helpful book is Drs. Raymond R. Townsend and Debbie L. Cohen’s 100 Questions & Answers About Kidney Disease and Hypertension. Neuropharmacologist Dr. Walter Hunt wrote Kidney Disease: A Guide for Living. Renal Dietitian Nina Kolbe wrote from her perspective: 10 Step Diet & Lifestyle Plan for Healthier Kidneys. Dr. Mackenzie Walser wrote Coping with Kidney Disease: A 12 – Step Treatment Program to Help You Avoid Dialysis. I also just wrote an Amazon review for Who Lives, Who Dies With Kidney Disease by Drs. Mohammad Akmal and Vasundhara Raghavan.

While I may or may not agree with all or part of the information in these books, they have either been mentioned, reviewed, or guest blogged on SlowItDownCKD because I want you to be aware of whatever help may be available to you.

That, of course, brings us to the Facebook support groups. I miss my New York daughter and she misses me, so we sometimes have coffee together separately. She has a cup of coffee and I do at the same time. It’s not like being together in person, but it’s something. You can find support the same way via Facebook. Since I’m both running out of room and have periodically reviewed these groups, I’m just going to list a few. You can use the search bar at the top of your Facebook page for others.

Kidney Disease, Dialysis, and Transplant

The Transplant Community Outreach

P2P

Kidney Disease Ideas and Diets1

People on Dialysis

Chronic Kidney Disease in India

Friends Sharing Positive Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness

CKD (Kidney Failure) Support Group International

Kidney Warriors Foundation

Kidney Disease is not a Joke

Kidney Disease Diet Ideas and Help

Sharing your Kidney Journey

Mani Trust

Dialysis & Kidney Disease

Kidneys and Vets

Women’s Renal Failure

I Hate Dialysis

Mark’s Private Kidney Disease Group

UK Kidney Support

Wrap Up Warm for Kidney Disease

Stage 3 ‘n 4 Kidneybeaners Gathering Place

 

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

The Reluctant Donor

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned the exceedingly personable folks I met at the kidney disease think tank and then the AAKP National Patient Meeting earlier this year. Actually, you’ve already heard from one from them. This past July, Cindy Guentert-Baldo guest blogged about being a PKD patient. Today’s guest blog by Suzanne F. Ruff looks at the other side of same kidney disease. Ms. Ruff is no stranger to spreading awareness of kidney disease as you can see by her credentials:

author of The Reluctant Donor

Freelance writer for The Charlotte Observer

Executive Board of Directors American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP)

Living Donor Council of The National Kidney Foundation (NKF)

Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving & Recovery & Say Hello to A Better Body

Before you start reading Suzanne’s guest blog, I feel it only fair to warn you it left me in tears.

Why am I called The Reluctant Donor?  A simple answer is because I cried and whined all the way into the operating room to donate a kidney to my sister.  But it’s really not simple.  It’s complicated.

I really didn’t like my sister.  Okay, okay, I know.  If you have a sibling, you probably know what I’m talking about . . . siblings can drive you crazy.  If you don’t have a sibling, well, it’s complicated.  That’s part of the reason I titled my book, The Reluctant Donor, but not quite the whole reason.

On my journey to become a living kidney donor to a sister I didn’t like, I learned a lot of things.  Probably the most important thing is that although I may not have liked my sister, I discovered how much I love her. When I didn’t like her, it was because she was crabby grouchy and scared.  I learned something from that, too.  My sister was crabby and grouchy because she was ill…very, very ill.  That’s what happens when you don’t feel well, when your kidneys fail, and when you’re scared, terrified and afraid: you are not yourself.

I also learned denial is a powerful thing.  My sister was in denial.  Kidney disease does that to you; my sister and I should know.  We were born into a family chockful of people with kidney disease. Polycystic kidney disease or ADPKD (Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease) to be exact. This is a hereditary disease that causes cysts to grow around both kidneys causing the kidneys to fail.  If one of your parents carries the gene (our mother did), you have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease.   My sister, along with my other sister, inherited that gene from our mother.  Our mother, along with Mom’s two brothers and two sisters, inherited that gene from their mother.

Yes, sirreee, we were chockful of kidney disease. Over twenty-three family members now have or had the disease. We’ve had ten deaths from kidney disease, including our mother.

I did not inherit the gene that causes the disease.  Many people ask me if I feel guilty, sort of like survivor’s guilt, because my sisters have the disease and I don’t. I don’t feel guilty.  A person has no power over what genes they inherit.  But, I do feel a tremendous responsibility to do what I can to eradicate the disease that has ravaged my family.  So, I wrote my book. 

There is no cure for PKD.  Growing up I learned I was named after my grandmother who died of polycystic kidney disease before I was born.  When her kidneys failed, the doctors told her there was nothing the doctors could do for her. Mom described my grandmother’s death: Mom, a teenager then, her father, her brothers and sisters were gathered around my grandmother’s hospital bed, when my grandmother sat straight up and said, “Here I am, Lord!” and died.

The disease then hit five of my grandmother’s six children, including my mother. Through their suffering and deaths, I have learned courage and faith.  One of my aunts diagnosed with PKD in the 1960’s was one of the first to be able to try the new-fangled machine called dialysis. But, alas! There were not enough dialysis machines!!!!!  My aunt was a Roman Catholic nun.  She offered to give up her spot on the waiting list and died a few months later. She was 45 years old.

Presently, my three cousins, all brothers, suffer from polycystic kidney disease.  Their eldest brother, John, passed away from polycystic kidney disease (PKD) in 1996. Two of the three brothers are on dialysis and the other brother will need dialysis soon.    Their sister has offered to be a living donor to one of them, but each of them insists the other brother accept her kidney. A stalemate … as the disease progresses.

I have other stories about my magnificent family, but this blog is near its end.  You might even say none of this explains why I cried, kicked and screamed my way into the operating room to donate one of my kidneys to my sister.

Plain and simple: I was afraid.  I don’t like hospitals.  I hate them.  Growing up, the people I loved most died in hospitals.  I don’t like needles. I don’t like blood.   I was afraid I would die, afraid the surgery wouldn’t be a success, afraid my life would change because I donated.  I was always afraid of polycystic kidney disease as one by one, people I loved suffered and died.

Something happened to me, though, when my sister collapsed in kidney failure.  My faith kicked in and I stepped up.  We are blessed.  The surgery was a success. My sister is now a grandmother. Life is so precious!

Having gained both another son-in-law and my first grandchild this year, I can only agree with Suzanne… and life was precious for me before. I’m reading her book now and enjoying it. Should you decide to read Suzanne’s book (and any and all of mine), be sure to leave a review. Those are what get our books recognized… and in Suzanne and my cases, spreads awareness of kidney disease.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

How Does That Work Again?

I’ve had so many questions lately about how clinical trials work that when Antidote asked me if I’d consider including their infograph in a blog, I jumped at the chance. There’s even more information about clinical trials at https://www.antidote.me/what-are-clinical-trial-phases.

I’ve written about Antidote before… and I’ve written about clinical trials before. It seems more and more people are becoming interested in the process for a multitude of diseases, not only Chronic Kidney Disease.

As a newly diagnosed diabetes patient, I’ve noticed clinical trials for diabetes. A family member has Alzheimer’s; his neurologist keeps an eye out for clinical trials for him. Whatever your disease is, you can search for clinical trials.

While this is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is a chance to help others who may develop the same diseases in the future. Who knows, maybe the new treatment will be FDA approved during your own lifetime and help you with your own disease.

In case you are one of those people who have always wondered just what the FDA is, their website is https://www.fda.gov. That’s right: it’s a government site which is part of the U.S. Health and Human Services. What’s that? You’d like a more precise definition?

No problem. This is from the United States of American Government website at https://www.usa.gov/federal-agencies/food-and-drug-administration and offers basic information about the FDA.

Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. The FDA also provides accurate, science-based health information to the public.

                                                                                                                                                      Agency Details

Acronym: FDA

Website: Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Contact: Contact the Food and Drug Administration

 Report a Problem with a Product

Main Address: 10903 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20993

Toll Free: 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332)

Forms: Food and Drug Administration Forms

Government branch: Executive Department Sub-Office/Agency/Bureau

By the way, they are also responsible for both recalls and safety alerts for the treatments they’ve approved.

In the infograph above, you’ll notice, “Sometimes, only healthy volunteers participate.” in Phase 1. Should you decide to apply for a clinical trial, you need to keep this in mind to save yourself a bit of heartache. I firmly believe in paying back for the wonderful things in my life and have applied for several clinical trials for other diseases in an effort to do so. I must have missed the small print because I was rejected for having CKD.

I wanted to help eradicate or ameliorate whatever the disease was. Sometimes it was a disease that was ravaging a loved one. It was just a little bit of a heartbreak not to be able to do so.

As for Phase 2, I went to the blog’s site at gailraegarwood.wordpress.com to use the antidote widget at the bottom of the right side of the page. It’s the turquoise one. You can’t miss it. Face Palm! You can also go directly to www.antidote.me to search for clinical trials.

Why Antidote? It’s simply an easier way to find a clinical trial. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2017:

“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

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.”

Before I sign off, this came in from the American Association of Kidney Patients:

Please join us on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 1 p.m. ET for an educational webinar on Making the Perfect Team: Working with Your Dialysis Technician in partnership with National Association of Nephrology Technicians/Technologists (NANT).  Keep in mind that’s tomorrow. Hit this link if you’d like to register https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7744206034004582403

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Dialysis is Now Old Enough to Have Its Own Museum

You know kidney disease advocates sort of bond together, right? I somehow magically ran across Steve Weed, a two time transplant recipient who has his own web development company that specializes in social media planning: Landau Digital Solutions. Actually, he unwittingly led me to the publisher of my first book: What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease before I even knew what he did for a living. But I digress.

While recovering from his recent transplant, Steve posted about visiting a dialysis museum. I found myself mystified that such a thing existed. Wasn’t dialysis only about fifty years old? Who had a museum about such a young invention?

Then I realized that I had never written about the history of dialysis. Maybe it was older. So I did a little digging for us. Will you look at that! The idea of dialysis is much older than I’d thought. This is from Renal Med at http://www.renalmed.co.uk/history-of/haemodialysis:

“Scottish chemist Thomas Graham, known as the ‘father of dialysis’, first described dialysis in 1854. He used osmosis to separate dissolved substances and remove water through semi-permeable membranes, although he did not apply the method to medicine

He worked as a chemist in Glasgow University at around the same time as physician Richard Bright was describing the clinical features and diagnosis of renal failure in Edinburgh. He noticed that crystalloids were able to diffuse through vegetable parchment coated with albumin (which acted as a semi-permeable membrane). He called this ‘dialysis’. Using this method he was able to extract urea from urine. Graham prepared a bell-shaped vessel….”­

This was the seed that later became hemodialysis, which is defined by MedlinePlus (part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine) at https://medlineplus.gov/dialysis.html in the following way:

“Hemodialysis uses a machine. It is sometimes called an artificial kidney. You usually go to a special clinic for treatments several times a week.”

The difference in spelling is due to the variations between British English and American English.

Another step in dialysis becoming dialysis as we know it today is:

“The first human hemodialysis was performed in a uremic patient by (Me: His given name is Georg.) Haas in 1924 at the University of Giessen in Germany…. He used a tubular device made of collodion immersed in dialysate solution in a glass cylinder. Haas was able to calculate that the total non-protein nitrogen removed was 2,772 g. He also showed that the presence of some uremic substances in the dialysate and that water could be removed from the blood. In 1928, he first used the anticoagulant, heparin. In 1937, the first flat hemodialysis membrane made of cellophane was produced, which is produced in similar manner to cellulose, but dissolved in alkali and carbon disulfide…. The resulting solution is then extruded through a slit and washed multiple times to obtain a transparent semipermeable material.”

I found the information on the Advanced Renal Education Program site at https://www.advancedrenaleducation.com/content/history-hemodialysis.

Then, finally, dialysis as we know it. DPC Education Center (Dialysis Patient Citizens) at http://www.dpcedcenter.org/brief-history-dialysis provided this information.

“The history of dialysis dates back to the 1940s. (Me here again: although we know the seeds for the dialysis were planted much earlier.) The first type of dialyzer, then called the artificial kidney, was built in 1943 by Dutch physician Willem Kolff. Kolff had first gotten the idea of developing a machine to clean the blood after watching a patient suffer from kidney failure. When his invention was completed, he attempted to treat over a dozen patients with acute kidney failure over the next two years. Although only one treatment turned out successful, he continued to experiment in improving his design.”

The sources use many words you may not be familiar with. IvyRoses at http://www.ivyroses.com/HumanBody/Urinary/Urinary_System_Kidney_Dialysis.php was able to help us out here.

Parts of a Kidney Dialysis Machine

Dialysis Membrane (sometimes referred to as simply a ‘dialyser’)
Note that there are two types of artificial kidney dialysis in clinical use: Hemodialysis uses a cellulose-membrane tube immersed in fluid, whereas peritoneal dialysis uses the lining of the patient’s abdominal cavity (peritoneum), as a dialysis membrane. This section … only describes the case of hemodialysis.
The “dialyser” part of a kidney dialysis machine consists of a large surface area of cellulose acetate membrane mechanically supported by a plastic structure. Blood is pumped past one side of this membrane while the dialysate fluid passes on the other side. The membrane may be folded-over many times so that the large area of the membrane occupies a practical volume of space.

Dialysate
The dialysate (solution) has the same solute concentrations as those in ordinary plasma. Therefore if the patient’s blood plasma contains excess concentrations of any solutes, these will move into the dialysate, and if the blood plasma lacks the ideal concentration of any solutes, these will move into the patient’s blood. Conversely, the dialysate fluid does not contain any waste products such as urea – so these substances in the patient’s blood move down the concentration gradient into the dialysate.

Anticoagulant
Heparin is the usual anticoagulant that is added to the patient’s blood as it enters the dialysis machine (in order to prevent the blood from clotting as it passes through the machine). Preventing the blood from clotting should, in turn, prevent any blood clots from blocking the filtration surface of the system. However, heparin is not added during the final hour of dialysis in order to enable the patient’s blood clotting activity to return to normal before he or she leaves.”

Finally, I went to the museum site itself for more information. You can find their site at https://www.nwkidney.org/about-us/dialysis-museum/. This important piece of information showed up there.

“It was 1960 when Dr. Belding Scribner and his colleagues at University of Washington developed the Scribner shunt, a device made of Teflon that could link an artery and a vein. This relatively simple device was revolutionary – it made long-term dialysis possible for the first time. Chronic kidney failure was no longer a death sentence.”

So now I know… and so do you. If I ever get out to Seattle again, this museum is on my list of places to visit.

Before I go, The American Kidney Fund asked me to let you know about two webinars this month, both on topics close to my heart… I mean my kidneys. They are Slowing down kidney disease on September 20th and Tips for talking with your doctor on Sept. 25th. Why not mark these on your calendar now while you’re thinking of it?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

So That’s How It’s Done

Readers have asked me repeatedly how foundations to raise awareness of kidney disease are started. You know my story: I developed Chronic Kidney Disease, didn’t understand what my nephrologist was saying so researched the disease, then decided to share my research with others who needs plain talk or reader friendly explanations. Hello, books, the blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and my website. But I’m not a foundation; I’m just me doing what I can.

Back to the original question: How do foundations begin? Let’s keep in mind that we’re not talking about the biggies like the National Kidney Foundation here.

Well, remember the AAKP Conference back in June that I keep referring to? You meet a lot of people there. One fellow I met is Scott Burton who started his own kidney awareness foundation. I put the question to him. Ready? Here’s his answer.

How do you sum up 36 years of a constant back and forth struggle? Of a lifetime searching for a reason as hope fades a little more each day? How do you not get sick on this roller coaster called life? Simple answer, you don’t have a choice, so you push forward and try to find some positive in the negative, some hope in the hopeless and, ultimately, just try to live each day a little better than the last and make a positive impact. See, this isn’t a story with a fairytale happy ending, but most stories worth reading (or watching), don’t have fairytale endings; rather, they are stories that are relatable and sometimes left open ended.

This isn’t a guest blog about me or my battle, but rather one introducing the positive that has come from the negatives. That positive comes in the form of The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation which pulls from my background in marketing and video production. It just made sense to try to raise awareness and shed some light on kidney disease in the best way I know how: with real people telling real stories about real experiences in a casual and comfortable format.

That began the journey to today, a journey that began on March 3rd, 2016, when The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation was officially launched. The foundation is committed to raising awareness and shedding light on kidney disease through the creation of video content distributed via the web and social media. With many hopes and plans for the future, we are pushing forward as time and funds are available to create new content and keep things moving.

What I envisioned when setting out and establishing The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation was a resource of media content to both shed light on kidney disease to the general public  – which usually doesn’t give their kidneys a second thought – as well as creating a place for patients to find a little bit of comfort with their own battles. By telling patients’ stories, highlighting struggles and accomplishments, and also highlighting research in the field, we can create a place of inspiration and hope. While we have several video series at various stages of development in the works, our primary focus right now is ramping up our mini-documentary web series as funding allows.

We launched with two Public Service Announcements that went live in May of 2016. These two were centered around the National Kidney Foundation’s statistic, “13 people die every day waiting for a kidney transplant,” with a combined viewership of just over 30,000 views on Facebook & YouTube.

In March of 2017, we launched the first episode of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life,” which is a web mini-documentary series of patients telling their stories in their own words. To date, four episodes of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life” have been posted online, with just under 50,000 views spread across Facebook and YouTube.

In the coming months, we will also be releasing the first three episodes of a companion to the patient series, telling living donor stories with more episodes of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life” to follow later this year. Additionally, we released the first video of what will grow to a regular series highlighting research focused on University of California, San Francisco, & The Kidney Project.

That’s the basic plan and history of The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation, with lots of projects in the works and plans to continue to grow. Everything comes down to funding and continuing to grow our network. We are constantly looking for new patients to highlight in our videos, and building a database of contact info for future episodes. To view our videos and learn more about the organization, follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/foreveristomorrowfoundation) & subscribe on YouTube (www.youtube.com/c/TheForeverisTomorrowFoundation).

Thank you, Scott, for explaining the inside workings of starting a foundation to raise awareness for kidney disease. Here’s hoping we get a bunch of readers commenting to tell us they borrowed from your structure to begin such foundations of their own and/or are interested in sharing their stories with  you. Note: The Facebook page has some of the most interesting information on kidney innovations that I’ve read about. Take a look for yourself.

On another note, KidneyX is looking for our input. This is from the email they sent me:

“We seek your feedback on how the KidneyX project can best spur innovation in preventing, diagnosing, and/or treating kidney diseases. While we encourage all relevant comments, we are interested particularly in responses to the following questions. You may respond to some or all of the questions:

  1. What unmet needs – including those related to product development—should KidneyX prize competitions focus on? If you have ideas for more than one topic area/issue, how would you rank them in order of importance? If you are a person living with a kidney disease, what makes these topic areas for product development important?
  2. What assistance or services might HHS and ASN offer to KidneyX prize winners that would encourage the greatest participation from a broad range of innovators?
  3. In what ways might HHS and ASN, through KidneyX, effectively encourage collaboration or cooperation between participants/prize winners while respecting their intellectual property rights?
  4. Particularly for those interested in participating in a KidneyX prize competition but unfamiliar with kidney functions and diseases, what information would you find it most useful for HHS and ASN to share publicly?”

You can submit your comments using the title “KidneyX Project Comment” by their September 14 deadline at:

E-Mail: please send responses to KidneyX@hhs.gov.

Mail: please send mail to
KidneyX c/o Ross Bowling
200 Independence Avenue SW, Room 624D
Washington, D.C., 20201

You don’t need to be a kidney patient to respond; you can also be an innovator.

This is, without a doubt, the most businessish (Love the writer’s license to initiate new words, don’t you?) blog I have posted to date. I hope it was both helpful and interesting to you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not That Kind of Trial

I enjoy reading murder mysteries and thrillers, especially Victorian era ones like the work of Anne Perry.  Sometimes they include –  or even start with – the trial and work their way backwards to the crime. The trial. That got me to thinking about a different kind of trial: clinical trials. How did they begin? What are they? WHY are they?

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.”

That seemed to answer my last question, too, since their purpose is safely test new drugs or therapies.

Are these something recent? Something developed since the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) was instituted? No, they are far, far older. This is from Dr. Arun Bhatt’s Evolution of Clinical Research: A History Before and Beyond James Lind, which you can find at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149409/. I found it fascinating.

“The world’s first clinical trial is recorded in the ‘Book of Daniel’ in The Bible…. This experiment resembling a clinical trial was not conducted by a medical, but by King Nebuchadnezzar a resourceful military leader…. During his rule in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered his people to eat only meat and drink only wine, a diet he believed would keep them in sound physical condition…. But several young men of royal blood, who preferred to eat vegetables, objected. The king allowed these rebels to follow a diet of legumes and water — but only for 10 days. When Nebuchadnezzar’s experiment ended, the vegetarians appeared better nourished than the meat-eaters, so the king permitted the legume lovers to continue their diet…. This probably was the one of the first times in evolution of human species that an open uncontrolled human experiment guided a decision about public health.”

Well, then, who is this James Lind mentioned in the title of Dr. Bhatt’s paper? I turned to England’s The Museum: Brought to Life at http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/jameslind for the answer:

“The Scottish surgeon James Lind was born in Edinburgh and served an apprenticeship at the Edinburgh College of Surgeons. He then worked as a ship’s surgeon until he opened his own practice in Edinburgh in 1748. Lind discovered the use of citrus fruit as a cure for scurvy when he conducted an early clinical trial. While working as a naval surgeon, Lind encountered cases of scurvy, a disease which often struck sailors on long voyages. The cause, a lack of essential vitamins, was unknown at the time. Earlier doctors had suggested that fresh fruit could be used to treat scurvy, but Lind was the first to test the effects of different diets systematically on a group of patients in a clinical trial. In 1754 he began to feed 12 scurvy patients different foods and found that patients eating citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges recovered much faster than those who were given other kinds of food.”

And now? Why are clinical trials important to us as kidney patients? In this year’s May 21st blog (Use the topic dropdown to the right of the blog itself; it’s easier than scrolling through all the blogs.), I wrote about the benefits of All of Us Research Project. The following is from that blog.

“The goal is to advance precision medicine. Precision medicine is health care that is based on you as an individual. It takes into account factors like where you live, what you do, and your family health history. Precision medicine’s goal is to be able to tell people the best ways to stay healthy. If someone does get sick, precision medicine may help health care teams find the treatment that will work best.

Researchers Share Discoveries

Research may help in many ways. It may help find the best ways for people to stay healthy. It may also help create better tests and find the treatments that will work best for different people.”

KidneyX is also involved. On June 24th (Use the topic dropdown again.), I included their principles in the blog.

Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

Did you notice that first principle: patient-centered? Or the fifth one: collaborative? We are included in that; we’re the patients.

IDEA Lab is one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ partners. This is how they define themselves:

‘We test and validate solutions to solve challenging problems in the delivery of health and human services.’”

I know, I know. Now you want to know where you can join clinical trials. How about Antidote? You can go to their website at https://antidote.me/match/search/questions/1?utm_campaign=unisearch&utm_source=slowitdownckd_com&utm_medium=ctsearch&utm_content=no_js or use the widget to the bottom right of the blog. If you’d like a bit more information, I wrote about them on Oct. 7th, 2017 (Use the month dropdown if you’d like to read that blog.)

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea… and I’ve run out of space.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Third Kidney

Here I am back from the semiannual vacation with my husband, brother, and sister-in-law. It was sad to realize this was our last cruise, but some of our bodies just can’t handle that anymore. It looks like mine may be one of them since I’m in bed feeling not so great. How was I ever going to be able to write a blog for Monday, I wondered.

And then I remembered that I’d met someone with an idea so old that it’s new again and he’d promised a guest blog for this week.  And there it was, right in my mailbox. I’d met Raymond Keller, Jr. DO at the American Association of Kidney Patients I attended recently. He had an intriguing idea, one I thought should be shared with you.

Take it away, Raymond…

First and foremost, please do not consider any of the following as medical advice. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medical treatment plan.

I’m not the first person to suggest the skin as a “Third Kidney,” but like many others I did independently conceive the idea. For the origin story you can read a recent interview done by the American Association of Kidney Patients. The premise of the Third Kidney is that skin, through the sweat glands, can excrete water, potassium, and urea in amounts that would be clinically useful to patients with chronic kidney disease especially those on dialysis. Before we get into the Third Kidney, let’s take a brief look into the history of dialysis itself.

Willem Johan Kolff is credited with being the inventor of dialysis. He pieced together things that could be found in a contemporary house to create the first dialyzer. The original dialysis membrane was a sausage casing. Crude, but effective. Belding Hibbard Scribner would come to create the “Scribner shunt” which allowed repeated use of the same vascular access. Once long term vascular access was obtained, long term hemodialysis became a reality.

Now let’s get down to the details about how sweating can help dialysis patients. While there are many potential compounds that can build in the body with renal failure, urea, water, and potassium are of particular importance. Let’s take a moment to explore the consequences of each and how sweat therapy can help.

Water is essential to life. So essential, we search for evidence of it on other planets to decide whether life could exist. To most dialysis patients water is a constant enemy. It is the reason they have to spend more than two hours on dialysis per day – to reach their dry weight. The evidence for keeping fluid off is part of the reason why people that do dialysis more than 3 days a week have better outcomes.

As anyone who lives between the Arctic and Antarctic Circle has likely experienced, sweating removes water from your body. Sweating is so interrelated with being human that almost every culture in human history has a tradition of inducing it. The Finns are perhaps the most well-known with their saunas. The Russians have banas, the Turks have hammams, and the Native Americans have sweat lodges. While everyone is different, it is not unreasonable to expect that a 45 minute sauna session could remove between 500-1000mL of fluid from the body. Higher losses are possible with training. To put that into context, a 4 hour dialysis session typically removes 2000mL and removing more than 400mL per hour can cause symptoms of hypotension. Sweating out fluid is a natural process, which is why it can reduce the ultrafiltration required.

In the table 1 below (adapted from https://www.homedialysis.org/life-at-home/articles/fluid-and-solute-removal-part-two) it is very obvious how likely it is for people to develop symptoms from removing fluid from the blood stream rather than the skin. This is especially important when we consider that the skin is where most excess fluid is stored, which is why dialysis patients get puffy.

Now on to potassium. Even though it is a vital nutrient, it has a dark side. Potassium chloride is one of the typically used compounds in lethal injections because it causes the heart to stop beating. As it builds up in the blood of a patient with renal failure it can have the same effect. Similar to fluid overload, keeping potassium levels at an appropriate level are a major reason daily dialysis patients do better than thrice weekly patients. Fortunately, potassium is excreted in sweat at 2-3 times the level it is found in the blood stream. During a regular sauna session the clinically relevant amount of potassium, in upwards of 4.6 grams, can be removed from the body.

And urea? Urea is a controversial molecule is the dialysis community, yet a relatively simple molecule that our bodies use to detoxify ammonia and remove nitrogenous waste from our bodies. We used to think that it freely diffused across cell membranes, like water. But seminal work by my mentor Jeff Sands, MD showed that there are molecular transporters for urea. In the dialysis community, urea rebound is proof that urea is not freely diffusible.

There has been much debate about the toxicity of urea. Regardless of whether urea is toxic, and at what levels it is, blood urea nitrogen is one way we monitor the adequacy of dialysis. Urea is excreted in sweat at about 2-3 times its presence in serum. Understanding how sweat affects the blood urea nitrogen levels will be important in coordinating the combination of sweat therapies with dialysis.

How does all of this relate to SlowItDownCKD? There is value to researching whether sweat based therapies like sauna can be used to reduce the dependence on dialysis. Given the above facts it is useful to ask the question of whether sweat based therapies can reduce the number of days per week or number of hours per day of dialysis. There is also the potential for sweat based therapies to push off dialysis for patients with CKD. Third Kidney currently has IRB (institutional review board, also known as an independent ethics committee) approval to do safety trials with Harvard Medical School professors. After a safety trial, the next step would be a study in patients that have chronic kidney disease.

When it comes to sweat based therapies for CKD I’ll leave you with a few thoughts:

  1. No rational person would say that sweating vis-a-vis exercise is a bad idea for CKD patients.
  2. If fluid balance was better achieved by sweating hours, or even days of dialysis, might be avoided.
  3. If potassium is lost in sweat it would allow people to liberalize their potassium intake, opening up a culinary panoply.

If you are interested in learning more about how sweat based therapies may be beneficial in patients with chronic kidney disease and the research that Third Kidney is doing, you can visit us at ThirdKidney.net.

Wow! Just wow. This is – as we used to say in college decades ago – mind blowing. It’s so simple, yet so complex. With many thanks for this new/old information, I’ll say good bye for now.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Sunny Transplants?

A few years ago, when I wrote only about Chronic Kidney Disease, the representative of a transplant group asked me to write about transplantees and skin cancer. I respectfully declined. As you may have noticed, my topics have become more wide ranging this year, from PKD to the Chronic Disease Coalition and all things in between. This week, I’m going to add skin cancer and transplantees to that list.

For me, that means going back to the basics since I was surprised that this was even an issue. The logical place to start was The Skin Cancer Foundation at https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/are-you-at-risk/transplants:

The most common skin cancers after transplant surgery are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), in that order. (See Table Below) The risk of SCCs, which develop in skin cells called keratinocytes, is about 100 times higher after a transplant compared with the general population’s risk.  These lesions usually begin to appear three to five years after transplantation…. While basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer in the general population, it occurs less frequently than SCC in transplant patients. Even so, the risk of developing a BCC after transplantation is six times higher than in the general population….

Risks of Four Types of Skin Cancer After Transplantation

Risks of Four Types of Skin Cancer After Transplantation

You could have knocked me over with a feather. From this stunning information, I extrapolated that it looks like the anti-rejection drugs are the source of the skin cancer.

Let’s see what these drugs are. The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/immuno explains.

Immunosuppressants are drugs or medicines that lower the body’s ability to reject a transplanted organ. Another term for these drugs is anti-rejection drugs. There are 2 types of immunosuppressants:

  1. Induction drugs: Powerful antirejection medicine used at the time of transplant
  2. Maintenance drugs: Antirejection medications used for the long term.

Think of a real estate mortgage; the down payment is like the induction drug and the monthly payments are like maintenance drugs. If the down payment is good enough you can lower the monthly payments, the same as for immunosuppression.

There are usually 4 classes of maintenance drugs:

  • Calcineurin Inhibitors: Tacrolimus and Cyclosporine
  • Antiproliferative agents: Mycophenolate Mofetil, Mycophenolate Sodium and Azathioprine
  • mTOR inhibitor: Sirolimus
  • Steroids: Prednisone

Okay, got it. But I still don’t understand what that has to do with skin cancer. The Department of Dermatology at Oxford University Hospital of the National Health Service Trust (in the United Kingdom) at https://www.ouh.nhs.uk/patient-guide/leaflets/files/11710Pimmunosuppressants.pdf offers this information:

“These drugs work by reducing your immune (defence) system. However, these treatments also increase your risk of skin cancer….”

Now it makes sense. While saving your life via preventing the rejection of your new life giving organ by suppressing your immune system, other conditions like cancer are sneaking passed that suppressed immune system. So you need to take these drugs to keep your new kidney, but they could shorten your life by letting the cancer cells multiply.

PATIENT CHARACTERISTIC FREQUENCY OF
DERMATOLOGY EXAM
No history of skin cancer or Actinic Keratosis Every 1-2 years
History of Actinic Keratosis Every 6 months
History of 1 non-melanoma skin cancer Every 6 months
History of multiple non-melanoma skin cancer Every 3 to 4 months
History of high risk SCC or melanoma Every 2 to 3 months
History of metastatic SCC Every 1 to 2 months

Hmmm, but maybe not. There must be a way to at least help guard against this… and there is. Actually, there are several including avoiding the sun, using sun block, wearing the newish sun blocking clothing, and simply wearing clothing that blocks the sun. (The chart above comes from the same site as the quote below). As the University of California San Francisco Skin Transplant Network phrases it at http://skincancer.ucsf.edu/transplant-patients:

“Clothing is a simple and effective sun protection tool. It provides a physical block that doesn’t wash or wear off and can shade the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Long-sleeved shirts and pants, hats with broad brims and sunglasses are all effective forms of sun protective clothing.”

There’s quite a bit of easily understood information about the different kinds of skin cancer that affect transplantees at the above URL. By the way, this request for patient participants also appears on their website:

We need transplant recipients to please help us by participating in our brief survey study about your skin.

Please click here to access our online consent form to learn more about the study.

After electronically signing the consent form, you will be directed to a short questionnaire about your health.
There will be no cost to you; your participation is entirely voluntary and will not influence your care or your relationship with your doctors.

Thanks so much for your help in skin cancer research!
UCSF IRB approved, #16-20894

Not only do you find the information you may be looking for about skin cancer and transplantees on this website, but you also have this opportunity to help with skin cancer research.

Whoops! I neglected to define UVA and UBV rays. Encarta Dictionary apprises us that UVA is “ultraviolet radiation, especially from the sun, with a relatively long wavelength,” while UBV is “ultraviolet radiation, especially from the sun, with a relatively short wavelength.” Not very helpful, is it?

Let’s try this another way. Many thanks to Cancer Research UK at https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/sun-uv-and-cancer/how-the-sun-and-uv-cause-cancer for clearing this up for us:

“There are 2 main types of UV rays that damage our skin. Both types can cause skin cancer: UVB is responsible for the majority of sunburns. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin. It ages the skin, but contributes much less towards sunburn.”

Another way to help yourself avoid skin cancer after having a transplant is to learn how to monitor your skin for cancer and then to do so on a regular basis. If you notice any abnormal spots or growths, get thee to thy dermatologist quickly. Apologies to Mr. Shakespeare for suborning his line.

You’ll probably be taught the ABCDE of Melanoma detection, too. The American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org is another good source of skin cancer information.

Here are some things I didn’t know about skin cancer that you may not know either. I picked them up at a local lecture on avoiding skin cancer:

Your lips need sunscreen, too.

The most common spot for men to develop skin cancer is the back; for women, it’s the legs.

Stage 3 and 4 Melanoma can get into your lymph nodes.

Effective sun screens contain both titanium and zinc.

Use SPF 50 on your face.

My transplanted friends always tell me transplant is “a treatment, not a cure.” Now I understand it’s a treatment with some possibly serious side effects.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Only One?

Loads of good things have been happening in my family lately, among them a couple of marriages. That, of course, brings new people into the family. There’s always that obligatory meet-the-new-in-laws dinner.  At one of these, a just added family member mentioned that she only had one kidney. Then she asked me what that means as far as Chronic Kidney Disease… and I didn’t know. Today’s blog is for her.

Let’s jump right in with this explanation from the U.S. Department of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/solitary-kidney.

When a person has only one kidney or one working kidney, this kidney is called a solitary kidney. People born with kidney dysplasia have both kidneys; however, one kidney does not function (top right). When a kidney is removed surgically due to disease or for donation, both the kidney and ureter are removed (bottom right).

Well that was pretty straight forward. I wondered if she should be taking any kind of special cautions. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, PubMed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16985610,

Removal of one kidney leads to structural and functional changes by the remaining kidney, including increased filtration of the remaining glomeruli. These functional changes have generally been considered beneficial because they mitigate the reduction in the total glomerular filtration rate that would otherwise occur, but experimental evidence suggests that these changes may have an adverse effect on the remaining kidney.

That sounded great… until I got to ‘adverse effect.’ So, naturally, I wanted to know what they meant. The Kidney and Urology Foundation of America, Inc. at http://www.kidneyurology.org/Library/Kidney_Health/Solitary_Kidney.php told me what I wanted to know.

If having a single kidney does affect your health, the changes are likely to be so small and happen so slowly that you won’t notice them. Over long periods of time, however, these gradual changes may require specific measures or treatments. Changes that may result from a single kidney include the following:

  • High blood pressure. Kidneys help maintain a healthy blood pressure by regulating how much fluid flows through the bloodstream and by making a hormone called renin that works with other hormones to expand or contract blood vessels. Many people who lose or donate a kidney are found to have slightly higher blood pressure after several years.
  • Proteinuria. Excessive protein in the urine, a condition known as proteinuria, can be a sign of kidney damage. People are often found to have higher-than-normal levels of protein in their urine after they have lived with one kidney for several years.
  • Reduced GFR. The glomerular filtration rate (GFR) shows how efficiently your kidneys are removing wastes from your bloodstream. People have a reduced GFR if they have only one kidney.

In the nephron …, tiny blood vessels intertwine with urine-collecting tubes. Each kidney contains about 1 million nephrons.

You can have high blood pressure, proteinuria, and reduced GFR and still feel fine. As long as these conditions are under control, they will probably not affect your health or longevity. Schedule regular checkups with your doctor to monitor these conditions.

Wait a minute! Those are also the effects of Chronic Kidney Disease. And as you read on, you’ll see that the precautions are the same as those for someone who already has CKD.

What, then, is my new in-law supposed to do since she has a solitary kidney? I went to Medic8, a new site for me, at http://www.medic8.com/kidney-disorders/solitary-kidney.htm for the following suggestions.

Monitoring

Your doctor should monitor your kidney function by checking your blood pressure and testing your urine and blood once a year.

  • Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 or lower. You have high blood pressure if it is over 140/90. People with kidney disease or one kidney should keep their blood pressure below 130/80. Controlling blood pressure is especially important because high blood pressure can damage kidneys.
  • Your doctor may use a strip of special paper dipped into a little cup of your urine to test for protein. The colour of the “dipstick” indicates the presence or absence of protein. A more sensitive test for proteinuria involves laboratory measurement and calculation of the protein-to-creatinine ratio. A high protein-to-creatinine ratio in urine (greater than 30 milligrams of albumin per 1 gram of creatinine) shows that kidneys are leaking protein that should be kept in the blood.
  • … scientists have discovered that they can estimate a person’s GFR based on the amount of creatinine in a small blood sample. The new GFR calculation uses the patient’s creatinine measurement along with weight, age, and values assigned for sex and race. …. If your GFR stays consistently below 60, you are considered to have chronic kidney disease.

Controlling Blood Pressure

If your blood pressure is above normal, you should work with your doctor to keep it below 130/80. Great care should be taken in selecting blood pressure medicines for people with a solitary kidney. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are two classes of blood pressure medicine that protect kidney function and reduce proteinuria. But these medicines may be harmful to someone with renal artery stenosis (RAS), which is the hardening of the arteries that enter the kidneys. Diuretics can help control blood pressure by removing excess fluid in the body. Controlling your blood pressure may require a combination of two or more medicines, plus changes in diet and activity level.

Eating Sensibly

Having a single kidney does not mean that you have to follow a special diet. You simply need to make healthy choices, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and low-fat dairy foods. Limit your daily salt (sodium) intake to 2,000 milligrams or less if you already have high blood pressure. Reading nutrition labels on packaged foods to learn how much sodium is in one serving and keeping a sodium diary can help. Limit alcohol and caffeine intake as well.

Avoid high-protein diets. Protein breaks down into the waste materials that the kidneys must remove, so excessive protein puts an extra burden on the kidneys. Eating moderate amounts of protein is still important for proper nutrition. A dietitian can help you find the right amount of protein in your diet.

Avoiding Injury

…. Having a solitary kidney should not automatically disqualify you from sports participation. Children should be encouraged to engage in some form of physical activity, even if contact sports are ruled out. Protective gear such as padded vests worn under a uniform can make limited contact sports like basketball or soccer safe. Doctors, parents, and patients should consider the risks of any activity and decide whether the benefits outweigh those risks.

I am happy to say I think our new relative is going to find this a comforting blog. I know I did.

Oh, talking about one. I have one desk copy of the now retired The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 left. Leave a comment if you’d like to have it. All I ask is that you not have received a free book from me before.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

Help When You Need It

One of the many people I met at the AAKP Conference who opened my eyes to things I’d never even though of before is Samantha Siegner from the Chronic Disease Coalition. We hit it off right away and I felt comfortable exposing my ignorance to her. Once she explained what the coalition does, I wanted all my readers to know about it. Happily for us, Samatha agreed to write a guest blog for us.

*****

Nearly half of all adults in the United States have one or more chronic health conditions, and the number continues to climb. By 2020, it is projected that over 157 million Americans will battle a chronic disease. While some chronic conditions can be prevented, others are inherited, or may develop as a result of numerous factors. Despite the prevalence of chronic disease, few organizations are specifically dedicated to addressing the needs of patients who battle all types of chronic conditions rather than a single disease.

The Chronic Disease Coalition (CDC) is national nonprofit organization that represents people battling a wide range of chronic conditions, including kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and more. As patients dealing with kidney disease or other chronic conditions know, it can be difficult to work, attend school or even get adequate health insurance coverage. Our organization works to not only raise awareness and educate the public about chronic conditions, but also to advocate for patients who need better access to care. Our mission is focused on exposing and addressing discriminatory practices and policies that are preventing patients from accessing necessary, often lifesaving care.

Discrimination based on a person having a chronic disease comes in various forms, but we most frequently see it occur in the school, workplace and with health insurance plans.

  1. School: For those looking to complete high school or even college, it can be difficult to regularly attend class or have the energy to complete assignments. For kidney patients, dialysis poses difficulty attending class, as you may be required to dialyze for several hours multiple times a week. It is important to educate yourself on the services offered by the school to ensure that you are receiving reasonable accommodation that support your effort to pursue education.

Our organization works with people to ensure that they are being treated fairly in the school system, read more in one patient’s story here.

  1. Workplace: Many people with chronic conditions may frequently visit the doctor’s office for treatment, response to a flare up or check-ups to ensure that their condition is being managed properly – these actions can require additional time off work. While it is not legal for an employer to ask about your medical history, some patients may disclose it. This can lead to a greater understanding and development of a process for how you miss work, but for others, it may lead to losing their job or being demoted.

The CDC helps patients by supporting legislation that protects the privacy of employee’s medical history and ensures that businesses and corporations cannot discriminate based on their health status. Additionally, we ensure that patients are educated on their rights within the workplace.

  1. Insurance: Unfortunately, insurance discrimination is all too common. Insurers institute a variety of practices to increase their bottom line at the expense of the patients, without consideration for the long-term health consequences. Some of the most common practices include, step-therapy or fail-first, lengthy prior authorization approval times, nonmedical switching and bans on charitable premium and copay assistance, which is a common way for insurers to target kidney patients.

Right now, insurers across the nation are targeting chronic disease patients who rely on charitable premium assistance to help afford the cost of their health care. By utilizing a loophole within a 2014 guideline issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, insurers are denying premium and copay payments made by charities, like the American Kidney Fund, on behalf of patients. As a result, patients are forced off their current health plan and left to find other options. This is a commonly used tactic to force patients off of private health plans and onto public plans, because the insurer doesn’t want to cover chronic disease patients that require expensive, regular treatment, like dialysis. While kidney patients are eligible for Medicare before the age of 65, a public plan may not meet their needs or cover services that can help a patient become eligible for a transplant.

The Chronic Disease Coalition is actively working to pass H.R. 3976, the Access to Marketplace Insurance Act to ensure that patients can access charitable premium assistance and choose the health plan that best meets their needs.

So how does the Chronic Disease Coalition work with kidney patients? In addition to advocating on behalf and beside kidney patients to ensure discriminatory policies don’t hinder their ability to access care, we work with patients in their communities to raise awareness and educate the public on kidney disease at an individual level and through our Ambassador Program.

After receiving an initial diagnosis, many people with kidney failure may not know what to expect from treatment, what questions they should ask their medical team and what changes may come to their daily life. Our Ambassador Program was developed on this understanding and is comprised of active advocates who battle chronic diseases and provide guidance, advice and advocate on issues that concern kidney patients. Ambassadors complete advocacy work that is relevant to their specific diseases and communities each month.

If you are interested in learning more about the CDC and how you may be able to become involved, please click here. Change happens when people speak out, share their stories and take action – the CDC is proud to provide a platform for kidney patients and all people with chronic conditions to do so.

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Did you click through on all the blue words? I did. I’d had inklings of what each of these meant, but the full explanation made my understanding so much better. All I can say is: Thank you!

SlowItDownCKD 2014 should be out on Amazon.com any day now. B & N takes a few weeks longer. This had formerly been the second half of the unwieldy, small print, indexless The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2. I’d vowed to separate both this book and the equally unwieldy, small print, indexless The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 into two books each… and now I have. Of course, that leaves me with desk copies of each of the Book of Blogs which I no longer need. Want one? Let me know (but only if you haven’t received a free book from SlowItDownCKD before).

Until next week,

Keep living your life!