So That’s How It’s Decided

SlowItDownCKD’s being honored as one of the best kidney disease blogs for 2016 has had some interesting results.  The first was the health and food writer’s guest blog about hydration for Chronic Kidney Disease on March 6th. Then it was the guest blog by the Social Security Administration’s Outreach Director. This week, it’s a telephone interview with Dr. Michael J. Germain, a nephrologist from Massachusetts, about some of the suggested guidelines in the upcoming KDIGO for 2016.

Got it:  backtrack. Let’s start with KDIGO. 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.” Anyone up for visiting their offices? What an excuse to go to Belgium!

Okay, now we know what the organization is and what it does, but why Dr. Germain? I asked the same question. Although he is not on the KDIGO panel of doctors who decide what the next year’s development and implementation will be, he is well versed with the topic having published or having been part of the writing for an overwhelming number of articles in such esteemed journals as the American Journal of Kidney Disease, Kidney International, and The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, as well as contributing to textbooks, … and he could simplify the medicalese in the guidelines to simple English for this lay person.

If you think I remind you quite often that I’m not a doctor, you should read my emails to our liaison. State I’m not a doctor, repeat, state I’m not a doctor, repeat. She had the good graces to laugh at my insecurities.

The latest guideline updates have not been released yet, so both the good doctor (over 40 years as a nephrologist) and I (CKD patient and awareness advocate for a decade) were working off the draft that was released last August.

Dr. Germain also made it a point to ensure that I understand the guidelines are based upon expert opinion, not evidence. That made sense to me since he is not only a patient seeing nephrologist, but also a research nephrologist – to which his numerous publications will attest. With me being a lay person, he “had a lot of ‘splaining to do.” I had to admire his passion when discussing the vitamin D guidelines.

In the draft guidelines, it was suggested that hypercalcemia be avoided. I know; it’s a new word. We already know that hyper is a prefix meaning over or too much; think excessive in this case. Calcemia looks sort of like calcium. Good thinking because, according to Healthline at http://www.healthline.com/health/hypercalcemia:“Hypercalcemia is a condition in which you have too high a concentration of calcium in your blood. Calcium performs important functions, such as helping keep your bones healthy. However, too much of it can cause problems….”

This excerpt from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease explains how calcium works with vitamin D and phosphorous.

“The kidneys produce calcitrol which is the active form of vitamin D. The kidneys are the organs that transfer this vitamin from your food and skin [sunshine provides it to your skin] into something your body can use. Both vitamin D and calcium are needed for strong bones. It is yet another job of your kidneys to keep your bones strong and healthy. Should you have a deficit of Vitamin D, you’ll need to be treated for this, in addition for any abnormal level of calcium or phosphates. The three work together. Vitamin D enables the calcium from the food you eat to be absorbed in the body. CKD may leech the calcium from your bones and body.”

The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 offers us more information.

“The parathyroid glands are located in the neck, near or attached to the back side of the thyroid gland. Parathyroid hormone controls calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D levels in the blood and bone. Release of PTH is controlled by the level of calcium in the blood. Low blood calcium levels cause increased PTH to be released, while high blood calcium levels block PTH release. …  Thanks to MedLine Plus at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003690.htm .”

As Dr. Germain explained, CKD patients break down vitamin D quickly since they have more of a catabolic enzyme, the enzyme that converts the vitamin D to an inactive form. Oh, right, catabolic means “any destructive process by which complex substances are converted by living cells into more simple compounds, with release of energy” according to Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers.

Here’s the problem: vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia. Dr. Germain phrased it, “In fact, the draft guideline recommends active vitamin D hormone therapy not to be routinely used in patients with CKD stage 3 or 4 due to increased risk of hypercalcemia and the lack of efficacy shown in studies.” Therefore, he urges nephrologists to wait until stage 4 or 5 to recommend vitamin D since hyperparathryoidism may lead to bone damage. But just as in any disease, it is harder to treat bone damage once it’s already there. His recommendation: Ask about your parathyroid level every three to six months and discuss the results of your tests with your nephrologist. By the way, his feeling – and obviously mine – is that preserving the kidney function is the most important job of the nephrologist and the patient.

I am eager to see the guidelines published so I can write more about them. The conclusion about vitamin D is based upon what nephrologists have seen in their practices since the last set of KDIGO guidelines were published in 2009. It will affect the way our nephrologists speak with us about our treatment, just as the other guidelines for 2016 will.

That will affect the way we self-manage. For example, I restrict my sun time to 15 minutes a day based on these findings. Take a look at how you self-manage. It should bring up a list of questions for you to ask your nephrologist at your next appointment.

You should also know the KDIGO deals with all stages of CKD including End Stage CKD and pediatric CKD.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Women Marching to the Kidney’s Beat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

February is Black History Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

At Last: Cuba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for the quality of the medical schools,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!IMG_2979