Cindy Tells All

On June 11th of this year, I wrote about Polycystic Kidney Disease after having met Cindy Guentert-Baldo at a kidney event. She has a type of kidney disease that I had no clue about until she started explaining it. What she had to say caught my attention, so I asked her if she would be willing to guest blog. I knew she had a family and is both a lettering artist and YouTube creator. That’s a lot of busy, especially if you’re dealing with a chronic illness. Luckily for us, she was able to work a guest blog into her busy schedule.

*****

In some ways, I live the typical middle class American mom life. I have a middle schooler and a high schooler. I work from home, my husband works a 9-5 in an office. The kids go to school, do their homework, go to activities. I have coffee dates with friends and dinner out with family, we go to the movies, we stay home and do yard work. Same routine, same rhythm as so many other families we know.

This picture doesn’t tell the whole story: I have polycystic kidney disease. I am currently in Stage 4, with my eGFR hovering around 25. My kidneys, at last measurement, were 27 and 25 cm in length.

Part of my daily rhythm is taking 10 different medications to control my blood pressure, manage other symptoms of being in Stage 4 of kidney disease and to help with my pain levels. Another part is having to take breaks when my energy flags or my pain levels get high enough to make sitting at a desk impossible. My kids have learned to read my body language so they know when Mom’s having a bad pain day. They’ve also learned to not hug me around my stomach, as my kidneys are so large that a loving hug could send me to bed for a few days.

I’ve burst a cyst making my bed, tying my shoe, twisting at the waist. I currently have a cyst the size of a healthy kidney underneath my left ribs that is a constant reminder that I am sick.

Aside from the physical problems that come with ADPKD (Let me help Cindy out here with a definition from emedicine at https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/244907-overview: “Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is a multisystemic and progressive disorder characterized by cyst formation and enlargement in the kidney … and other organs (eg, liver, pancreas, spleen). Up to 50% of patients with ADPKD require renal replacement therapy by 60 years of age.”), there is also the emotional baggage I carry.

This disease is genetic – I have multiple family members in different stages. In some ways, I am grateful to have people to talk to who understand without my having to explain. On a recent vacation my sister (who is in Stage 5) and I lay next to each other and just let out our frustrations and difficulties, knowing we had someone listening who understood. Our grandmother is in her 15th year with her transplant – she has impressed upon us how crucial it is to be informed about the disease in general and our health specifically.

I carry a lot of emotional, painful baggage due to this disease. Our father passed away from a brain stem aneurysm at age 40, brought on due to high blood pressure and PKD. My sister and I were diagnosed shortly afterwards. These days, as I approach 40, I live with a certain amount of terror. What if I die and leave my kids the way my dad left me? I’m aware of how unreasonable of a fear that is – my father died because he was unable to get health insurance and, thus, was unable to care for himself as his kidney disease progressed. I have learned from that.

That doesn’t change the deep fear inside me.

I also live with the guilt that I may have passed this disease to one or both of my children. Was I selfish becoming a parent knowing the kids themselves could wind up with PKD? I was healthy when I had them. I had no idea what I would be feeling like as my kidneys grew and began to fail. Make no mistake; I adore my children, and the world is a better place with them in it. But that doesn’t make the guilt go away.

I worry about having access to healthcare. I worry about dialysis with kids still in school. I worry about something happening to me the way it did to my dad. I worry about something happening to my sister the way it did to our dad. I struggle with my body image as my kidneys grow and I look more and more pregnant. I fight with my expectations of what I think my body should be able to do, and what I am actually able to do. I fight against the idea that I am a sick person.

Despite ALL of this, I love my life. I love my family. I love my friends. I live a mundane, repetitive, fantastic, beautiful life of a mom, a wife, a sister, a friend, an artist, a woman.

I am not PKD. I am a person with PKD…

And I am so much more.

*****

I have to admire Cindy for her honesty here. She would be having these feelings whether or not she shared them with us, but the fact that she did may just make it easier for other PKD patients to speak about their own fears.

By the way, The American Kidney Fund’s next webinar, Advocating for a rare disease, is on Thursday, July 26, 2018 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. EDT. The speakers will be Angeles Herrera, Holly Bode, You can register at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7986767093922676227.

In other news, the SlowItDownCKD book series now includes SlowItDownCKD 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, all available from Amazon.com and B & N.com. I had contemplated changing the title of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to SlowItDownCKD 2010 but rejected the idea. I like that title; don’t you? Of course, expect SlowItDownCKD 2018 early next year. These books were written for those of you who have requested the blogs in print form for those family members and friends who are either not computer savvy or don’t have easy access to a computer. It’s my pleasure to comply with that request. Oh, I still have one desk copy each of the retired The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Parts 1 & 2 if you’ve not received a free book from me before and would like one of them. Just respond with a comment so I know you were the first to ask.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Sex?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communicate with your partner or others about how you feel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

This Former Hippy Wannabe Likes HIPAA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“VA eKidney Clinic

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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!

Up and Down…and Up…and Down

I usually base the blog upon what’s happening in my medical life or those of my family members and friends.  I thought I wouldn’t have anything to write about today. But then I got my latest lab results.  Ugh!

eGFR MDRD Non Af Amer >59 mL/min/1.73 47

There’s been some variation in my eGFR for the last few months and it hasn’t all been good.  What’s the eGFR, you ask.  Let’s start with the GFR and use the glossary in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease {page 132} for the definition:

Glomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpg“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.”

Wonderful, except we need to know what glomerulus means since the suffix ‘ar’ tells us that glomerular is an adjective or word that describes a noun – a person, place, thing, or idea.  In this case, the noun is glomerulus.   Thank you dictionary.reference.com for the following:

“Also called Malpighian tuft, a tuft of convoluted capillaries in the nephron of a kidney, functioning to remove certain substances from the blood before it flows into the convoluted tubule.”glomerulus

Yes, yes, I know more definitions are needed.  Back to the glossary in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease {page 134 this time):

“Nephrons: The part of the kidney that actually purifies and filters the blood.”

A tubule, as you’ve probably guessed, is a very small tube.  This is when having been an English teacher for decades pays off in my kidney work!

Maybe we should define capillary too, in case you’ve forgotten what it is. This time I used Merriam-Webster.com at MedlinePlus.

“a minute thin-walled vessel of the body; especially: any of the smallest blood vessels connecting arteriole with venules and forming networks throughout the body.”

In other words, they’re the smallest blood vessels in the body.

Alright, we’ve got our vocabulary in place; now why is the eGFR so important? As stated in the definition above, it is used for staging your Chronic Kidney Disease.  Different stages require different treatment or no treatment at all.  There are five stages with the mid-level stage divided into two parts.  The higher the stage, the worse your kidney function.stages chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to my original concern about the GFR results in my labs.  Why did it fluctuate from 53 in August of last year, to 47 in February of this year, to 52 in May, to 56 in August, and to 47 last week? All the values are within stage 3A and I know it’s only a total fluctuation of six points, but it’s my GFRfluctuation so I want to know.  And that’s what started this whole blog about GFR.

I discovered that different labs may use slightly different calculations to estimate your GFR, but I always go to the same lab, the one in my doctor’s office.  Nope, that’s not my answer.

According to the American Kidney Fund, “…this test may not be accurate if you are younger than 18, pregnant, very overweight or very muscular.”  No, these situations don’t apply to me either.

Maybe I’m going about this all wrong and should look at the formula for arriving at GFR. The National Kidney Disease Education program lists the formula which includes your serum creatinine.  Aha! Maybe that’s the cause of the variation.  First a reminder: creatinine is the chemical waste product of muscle use. {This is a highly simplified definition.}

You’ll find this on your Comprehensive Metabolic Panel Blood Results, should you have your results. The normal values are between 0.57 and 1.00 mg/dL.  Mine were above normal for each test, a sign that I have CKD.  As if I didn’t already know that. These results were also lower each time my GFR was higher.

iPadI researched and research.  My final understanding is that not only can CKD elevate your creatinine, but so can dehydration, diabetes or high blood pressure.  If your creatinine is elevated, the results of the GFR formula will be lowered.  That’s enough information to allow me to rest easy until I see my doctor next week.

Some of this was pretty technical and I couldn’t give you many exact web addresses since my computer is having its own issues today.  You may want to try an online GFR calculator just to see how it works.  You will need your serum creatinine value {serum means blood, so this is not to be confused with the urine creatinine test} to do so.  I like the one at DaVita.com.

Until next week,Book Cover

Keep living your life!

Peeking At Transplantation

ringLadies and Gentlemen: welcome to the first blog by Gail Rae-Garwood (Mrs. Paul A. Garwood), formerly Gail Rae.  Thank you for all your congratulations and good wishes! I have more former names than I’d like to admit, but I’m sticking with this one, just as I’m hoping to stick with my own two kidneys for the rest of my life… or as I say to Bear “whatever time we have left.”

I am not morbid but I’m also not the blushing bride my dear cousin Steve Bernard caricatured me as.  I’m just plain realistic. And that’s why we’ll take a little peek at transplantation today.  Remember that I’m not a doctor and I didn’t want to know anything about this ever.  But it is a fact in some lives.  Sure I don’t want to have one of those lives and I’m doing everything I can to avoid it, yet….

Do you know about the TransplantCommunityOutreach page on Facebook?  They asked me to be their kidney ‘expert’ right after What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease                         was published.  I balked since I certainly didn’t feel like an expert and knew nothing about transplantation.  Linda and Rex Maus went back and forth with me until I understood they didn’t expect me to know everything, just to remind the transplantees what it had been like in the early stages and keep them informed about what new discoveries have been made since their own time in the early stages of chronic kidney disease.  I was comfortable doing that.

You already know that when your kidney function decreases to 10 or 15%, depending upon your nephrologist’s views, you need outside help.  By this I mean, from outside your body.  We timidly explored dialysis last week.  A word about that.  There is so much more that I’ve learned about dialysis while I was researching for that blog. If you’d also like to learn more – whether you’re at the point of needing it or not – I urge you to do more research on your own.The Table

Or, if you’re not comfortable researching, go to one of the national kidney organizations.  They will give you clear, simply stated explanations with diagrams and will list other sources. I would start with Medlineplus, a service of The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v%3Aproject=medlineplus&query=renal+dialysis .

I went to Medline at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/kidneytransplantation.html for a definition of renal (or kidney) transplant:

“A kidney transplant is an operation that places a healthy kidney in your body. The transplanted kidney takes over the work of the two kidneys that failed, so you no longer need dialysis.

During a transplant, the surgeon places the new kidney in your lower abdomen and connects the artery and vein of the new kidney to your artery and vein. Often, the new kidney will start making urine as soon as your blood starts flowing through it. But sometimes it takes a few weeks to start working.

Many transplanted kidneys come from donors who have died. Some come from a living family member. The wait for a new kidney can be long.

If you have a transplant, you must take drugs for the rest of your life, to keep your body from rejecting the new kidney.”

I find people cringe at the thought of taking drugs for that long, but think of the alternative… or lack of one.  There is quite a bit of information packed into that concise definition.

Diagrams always help me understand when the words don’t.  You’d think that wouldn’t be the case for a writer, but I like to think of myself as the exception to the rule. (It saves face when I don’t remember what some of the terms in the definition mean.)  This is the clearest, simplest diagram I could find.faq_kidney_transplantation

A couple of reminders (taken from the glossary of What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease):

  1. Arteries are the vessels that carry blood from the heart.
  2. Veins are the vessels that carry blood toward the heart.

In the last decade, there has been experimentation with taking the donor kidney laparoscopically. That means using extremely small instructions which require extremely small incisions into the abdomen of the donor. I haven’t seen any articles that are negative about this and it cuts down on the recovery time for the live donor.  Since we each have two kidneys and it is possible to live with one, someone who matches may donate a kidney to you.  Otherwise, you will receive something called a cadaver kidney, meaning one which comes from someone who has just died.

Recently, according to ScienceBlog at http://scienceblog.com/56571/donors-like-giving-up-kidney-through-belly-button/ , this marvelous procedure of removing donor kidneys laparoscopically has been further improved by using only one incision in the belly button which is lost within the navel folds once it is healed. The idea is to make it more comfortable for the living donor so that more living donors can be found.

As for the person receiving the kidney, you will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of your life.  Your body is designed to reject foreign bodies – including organs.  You’ll also need to pay attention to exercise, diet, sleep, and stress sort of like with ckd, only this is not a life or death matter…  not a keeping your GFR up matter.

Some people choose not to take on that challenge.  It was only through Cheryl’s death that I came to realize not everyone wants to prolong their life if it means doing what they don’t feel they can.

I know, I know, here I am a newlywed (one day now, folks) and I haven’t told you a thing about the wedding or the reception.  I simply felt that, logically, a blog on transportation had to follow the one on dialysis.  Again, I haven’t told you much more than the basics so if you want more, research.  Or comment and I’ll help you find more information.

Expect to cry and laugh with me next week as I weave highlights of the wedding into kidney information.  To my European readers, thank you so much for the volume of sales there!  To my US readers, don’t forget this Kidney Walk season.  Contact your local kidney organization for info on the walk in your area.Az. Kid Walk

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Regenerative Medicine Or Last Year’s Science Fiction Becomes The Future’s Science

It’s Monday again and I found a slew of interesting comments just waiting for me when I came to the blog.  The material, as I just wrote, was interesting but I can’t comment on them in the blog because each and every one of them contained advertisements.  I am uncomfortable endorsing any product I haven’t either tried myself or researched. I’m wondering if any of the people who sent these informative comments that contained advertisements would be interested in offering the information without the advertisements. I, on my part, would be more than willing to consider running guest blogs after I have the time to review the information.

July 4th, Independence Day, is Wednesday. The picture below, one I took at Niagara Falls, somehow epitomizes independence to me – something about how freely and differently each drop of water makes the fall.  There’s another kind of independence down the pike for us – independence from the dialysis that is the only alternative now for ESRD sufferers.

Okay, now get ready to be amazed and learn a new word: “Podocytes are found only in the kidney and are an integral structural component of its blood-filtering system. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a part of the organ called the glomerulus {as CKD patients, that word should be more than familiar} and wrap their long ‘feet’ {pod is Greek for foot, just as ped is Latin for root} around the semi-permeable capillaries through which blood flows. Narrow slits between the feet allow small molecules, such as water and salts, to pass while blocking large proteins {sound familiar?}…’The implication is that podocytes may utilize recognized pathways of regeneration to renew themselves throughout life,’ said Artandi (associate professor of medicine Steven Artandi, MD, PhD. and senior author of the study). People suffering from chronic kidney disease {that’s us} may simply have worn out or outpaced their podocytes’ capacity for renewal, he believes.

Now that the researchers know podocytes have the ability {to}regenerate in response to common cellular signals, their next step is to learn whether this regeneration occurs in healthy animals and people. ‘If we can harness this regeneration,’ Artandi said, ‘we may one day be able to treat people with chronic kidney disease.'”

According to the article, there is a possibility in the future of coaxing our own bodies to produce more of these podocytes to replace those that have died. This is another new way of treating chronic kidney disease.  Add this to cloning, artificial kidneys, external mechanical kidneys and the future holds just so many more options than three different types of dialysis.  I, for one, am so encouraged I can feel my heart leaping in my chest (well, maybe not, but I am super encouraged.)

The entire article can be found at:  http://www.medindia.net/news/Hope-for-Treating-Chronic-Kidney-Disease-Via-Regeneration-of-Specialized-Cells-94388-1.htm#ixzz1zUXL2jok

In the same vein {Get it? Medical term? Vein?}, are you aware that kidneys can be 3D printed?  I had to read that sentence twice myself.  Then I started wondering WHY even bother making a 3D print of a kidney.  Read on Wake Forest University’s Anthony Atala explains :

“For example, the talk {above the transcript at the address below} highlights our still-experimental work to engineer a human kidney. Being able to replace solid organs such as the heart, liver, kidney {note that – kidney} and pancreas is considered the ‘holy grail’ of tissue engineering. That’s why we’re pursuing multiple strategies in this area: cell therapies, tissue ‘inserts’ to augment an organ’s function, and ‘printing’ replacement organs.

At TED {TED stands for Technology, Entertainment Design}, we demonstrated 3-D printing technology, already used in a variety of industries — from auto parts to concrete structures. Our goal, or course, is to apply the technology to organs. The project is based on earlier research in which we engineered miniature kidneys {hurray!} using biomaterials and cells. In animals, these structures were shown to be functional, in that they were able to filter blood and produce dilute urine.

This printer, while still experimental, is being explored for organs such as the kidney {ahem} and structured tissue such as the ear. The ultimate goal is to use patient data, such as from a CT scan, to create a computer model of the organ we want to print. This model would be used to guide the printer as it layer-by-layer prints a replacement organ made up of cells and the biomaterials to hold the cells together. ”

The entire article is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/20/printing-organs_n_1160307.html

The FDA is on board, too, with their Innovation Pathway program which was launched in 2010 to reduce the time and cost of bringing safe and effective breakthrough technologies to patients.These three aimed at kidney patients were approved earlier this year:

  •  An implantable Renal Assist Device being developed by the University of California, San Francisco.
  • A Wearable Artificial Kidney in development by Blood Purification Technologies Inc. of Beverly Hills, Calif. {discussed in a blog last month}
  • A Hemoaccess Valve System that has been designed by Greenville, S.C.-based CreatiVasc Medical.
You can read more at: http://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/fda-clears-path-new-kidney-disease-tech/2012-04-10?utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss#ixzz1zUj6DUAk
 
 
The future for chronic kidney disease patients is almost here and it is encouraging.  For now, there’s always my book.
Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Giving In Order To Take?

I’ve mentioned before that I live in Arizona.  I’ve mentioned before that our governor, Janet Brewer, has decided that organ transplants are elective surgery for AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System) members. This is the state’s Medicaid program.

Now it seems she’s changed her mind… at a price, that is.  According to our local paper, The Arizona Republic, in a front page article on Thursday, March 31, 2011, “…Brewer also wants lawmakers to restore funding for certain organ transplants.”  These are the same organ transplants she eliminated coverage for last fall and for that she’s come under severe criticism – especially after several well publicized deaths resulted from the lack of  a transplant.

While that may sound like good news, the title of this front page article is “Ariz. asking feds to OK cuts.”  What cuts? you may ask.  Oh, it’s only cuts for lower-income people – nothing that concerns you and me.  I’ve heard people say just that.  I think they may be forgetting that people are people no matter what their income level is.

And what are these cuts?  According to the article by Mary K. Reinhart and Ginger Rough, they are as follows:

“Freezing enrollment for childless adults….”

“Eliminating the medical expense deduction program….”

“Cutting reimbursement rates for hospitals, doctors and other healthcare providers by 5 percent…. That’s in addition to the 5 percent cut that was due to take effect Friday.” (That was last Friday, April 1, 2011.)

“New limits on benefits….”

“Mandatory co-payments for parents and children, fees for missed appointments, $50 fees for patients who smoke, are obese and fail to follow a plan for managing a chronic disease

“Eliminating state emergency-services funding for people without proof of citizenship….”

“Requiring patients to re-enroll every six months instead of annually.”

I am not by nature a political person and I’m not even sure I understand all this, so I’ve been very careful to quote the excerpts from the article I’ve copied in this blog.

This would reflect a savings of over $362,000 annually, but what about the people who need this help.  It never occurred to me when I gave blood to even think about the color of the skin of the person who would be receiving that blood, much less to think about their income level.  Wouldn’t the same hold true for a kidney (or any other kind) of transplant?

The first sentence of the article is: “Gov. Jan Brewer will formally ask federal health officials today to eliminate more than 160,000 people from the Medicaid rolls under a sweeping plan that would freeze two programs for adults, eliminate coverage for catastrophic care and impose a range of fees and limits health-care services for Arizona’s indigent.”  Wow!

We have more “indigent” throughout the country due to the economic times.  Can we really deny them transplants (those Brewer doesn’t restore) and healthcare because they were downsized?  What about their children?

As a humanitarian rather than a politician trying desperately to balance the state’s budget, I do not understand any of this.  Of course I agree that those on the welfare rolls need to be on a work program, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want them to have their health issues attended to.  What is our world coming to if we can’t take care of each other – especially when it comes to health matters?

This is a sad Gail wishing you would:

Keep living your life.

Published in: on April 8, 2011 at 5:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Estimated GFR

There’s something I need to tell you: the state of Arizona has decided that transplants (not just kidney transplants) are elective surgery.  There we have our first death panel.  The state health insurance for lower income families has been instructed to deny claims for transplants, even reverse those claims already approved.  This is very, very scarey. I urge you to contact Jan Brewer, Arizona’s state governor, to protest BEFORE this kind of insanity spreads to other states.

Arizona is setting a precedent, one it would behoove us to insist she reverse.  The following link will give you a bit more information: http://ktar.com/?sid=1341224&nid=6.  Brewer’s contact information is at http://azgovernor.gov/Contact.asp.  There’s an e-mail form, a telephone number, a fax number and a snail mail address on that page. As Chronic Kidney Disease – Early Stage patients, we are far away from transplants, but we will need them whether it’s months, years or decades from now.

That’s the other end of our disase.  Now back to the beginning. The symptoms of kidney disease don’t show up until you’ve lost most of your kidney function.  That’s when you’ll experience the fatigue that’s not always a result of anemia, the muscle cramps that usually – but not always – present themselves in your calves, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, easy bruising, itching and the shortness of breath when you exert yourself.  If you’re like me, you started feeling them as soon as you read about them, but they weren’t really there.  It was a classic case of medical student syndrome. That’s when you are convinced you have the disease (or, in my case, the symptoms) as soon as you learn about it.  Actually, according to my nephrologist, I’m probably at least 20 years away from such symptoms.  So how do the doctors know I have CKD?

It’s all in the numbers, the numbers of your estimated GRF that is. But what is the GRF, and why is it estimated?  Isn’t medicine an exact science? It seems not.

GRF means the Glomerular Filtration Rate.  Big help, isn’t it? Filtration Rate sounds easy enough, but what are (is?) a Glomerular?  The dictionary tells us that filtrate is the part of a liquid that passed through a filter. So, glomerular filtration measures the filtrate from the glomerular.

According to The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, a glomerular is a small tuft of blood capillaries in the kidney responsible for filtering out waste products. So far, so good.  Now, how does this relate to CKD?

It is considered the best indication of measuring kidney function when used as part of a formula that includes age, gender, body size, race and serum creatinine level. Creatinine is a waste product of muscle activity. What actually happens is that our bodies use protein to build muscles and repair themselves. This used protein becomes an amino acid which enters the blood and ends up in the liver where it is once again changed.  This time it’s changed into urea which goes through the kidneys into the urine.

The harder the muscles work, the more creatinine that is produced and carried by the blood to the kidneys where it also enters the urine.  This in itself is not toxic, but measuring the urea and creatinine shows the level of the clearance of the harmful toxins the body does produce.  These harmful toxins do build up if not voided until a certain level is reached which can make us ill. Working kidneys filter this creatinine from your blood.  When the blood levels of creatinine rise, you know your kidneys are slowing down.  During my research, I discovered that a non-CKD patient’s blood is cleaned about 35 times a day. A CKD patient’s blood is cleaned progressively fewer times a day depending upon the stage of the patient’s disease.

In Kathryn Seidick’s Or You Can Let Him Go, she quotes her son’s doctor, “The word you will come to love or dread, Mr. and Mrs. Seidick, is creatinine.  This is a substance constantly secreted by muscles, and its presence in the blood shows better than anything how well the kidney is doing.  If the creatinine is low, 0.5 to 1.5, the kidney is doing well; if it is high, the kidney is in trouble.”  This book was published in 1984, but Dr. Gruskin’s words are still apt, although he was referring to a child’s creatinine levels. A mature man’s can be between 0.6 to 1.2, and a mature woman’s between 0.5 and 1.0. It can be even lower for children and, as you age, it lowers even more.  The more websites I visited, the more variable [albeit very slight] I noticed in acceptable ranges for non-CKD creatinine levels.

Once again, I urge you to contact Jan Brewer’s office before our kidneys give out on us.  Thanksgiving is Thursday.  One of the things we can be thankful for is that we don’t need transplants yet, but what about those lower income people in Arizona who do need an organ transplant?  Think about how to phrase your letter to Brewer as you eat your turkey and just keep loving your life – the way these people being denied their transplants love theirs.

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment