Memories of Another Sort

When I was teaching Creative Non-Fiction at Phoenix College, I got into the habit of taking my classes to The Poisoned Pen, an award winning independent book store here in Arizona. I wanted them to hear well known authors talk about their writing process and see that these people were human beings just as they, my students, were. I retired from teaching several years ago, but I still go to writers’ workshops at the Pen. Last time I was there, I stumbled upon an advance copy of a book by Lisa Stone.

What’s an advance copy? It means either Advance Reading Copy of Advance Review Copy – depending upon who you talk to and is abbreviated ARC. TCK Publishing at https://www.tckpublishing.com/advance-review-copies/ informs us:

“Big traditional publishers often print thousands of ARC copies to send out to trade reviewers, bloggers, booksellers, librarians, and other people who can generate word of mouth for the book. In today’s technological environment, digital ARCs are gaining rapidly in popularity, sent out in email blasts and through various online services. ARCs are also used in giveaways and contests to give ordinary readers early access to books in an effort to build buzz.”

Lisa Stone, the author of the ARC of The Darkness Within (the one I picked up), is the nom de plume of Kathy Glass. She’s a bestselling British author who wrote about cellular memory – alternately called cellular memory phenomenon – after organ transplant. I was transfixed. We all know I rarely write about transplantation, but today I am. Here’s a reminder from SlowItDownCKD 2015 as to just what that is:

“WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/kidney-transplant-20666 tells us:

‘A kidney transplant is surgery to replace your own diseased kidneys with a healthy (donor) kidney.’

I should mention that while there are transplants from both living and cadaver donors, both will require lifelong drugs to prevent rejection. “

Now for the biggie: what is cellular memory? According to Medical Daily at http://www.medicaldaily.com/can-organ-transplant-change-recipients-personality-cell-memory-theory-affirms-yes-247498:

“The behaviors and emotions acquired by the recipient from the original donor are due to the combinatorial memories stored in the neurons of the organ donated. Heart transplants are said to be the most susceptible to cell memory where organ transplant recipients experienced a change of heart.”

Lisa Stone’s protagonist had a heart transplant and his personality became that of his donor. Far fetched? Maybe.

But what about the case of Demi-Lee Brennan, the Australian young lady who had a liver transplant that changed her blood type and immune system back in 2008? The Sydney Morning Herald at http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/transplant-girls-blood-change-a-miracle/2008/01/24/1201157559928.html included this quote from one of her doctors.

“We didn’t believe this at first. We thought it was too strange to be true,” Dr Alexander said. ‘Normally the body’s own immune system rejects any cells that are transplanted … but for some reason the cells that came from the donor’s liver seemed to survive better than Demi-Lee’s own cells. It has huge implications for the future of organ transplants.’”

And those who have received kidney transplants? Is there anything to report about cellular memory there? I turned to the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-533830/My-personality-changed-kidney-transplant–I-started-read-Jane-Austen-Dostoevsky-instead-celebrity-trash.html#ixzz4t3Ml4sAt and found this:

“’A spokesman for UK Transplant said: ‘While we are aware of the suggestion that transplant recipients take on aspects of the personality of the organ donor, we are not aware of any evidence to support it.

While not discarding it entirely, we have no reason to believe that it happens. We would be interested to see any definitive evidence that supports it.’

Examples cited as proof of cellular memory include a U.S. woman terrified of heights who became a climber and a seven-year-old girl who had nightmares about being killed after being given the heart of a murdered child.”

The Liberty Voice, a publication that is new to me and seems to be part of The Guardian, at http://guardianlv.com/2013/06/organ-transplants-cellular-memory-proves-major-organs-have-self-contained-brains/ had the sort of background information I was looking for:

“In our modern culture, cellular memory was first studied in heart transplant recipients when the patients displayed strange cravings, change in tastes, cravings and mild personality. Major organs like the heart, liver, kidney, and even muscles are known to contain large populations of neural networks, which are self-contained brains and produce noticeable changes. Acquired combinatorial memories in organ transplants could enable transferred organs to respond to patterns familiar to the organ donors, and it may be triggered by emotional signals. Science discovered evidence that nervous system organs store memories and respond to places, events, and people recognized by their donors.

Gary Schwartz has documented the cases of 74 patients, 23 of whom were heart transplant recipients. Transfers of memories have not been reported in simpler transplants like corneas because they don’t contain large population of neurons. Dr. Andrew Armour a pioneer in neurocardiology suggests that the brain has two-way communication links with the “little brain in the heart.” The intelligence of neural brains in organs depends on memories stored in nerve cells.”
You can find the Schwartz study at http://www.newdualism.org/nde-papers/Pearsall/Pearsall-Journal%20of%20Near-Death%20Studies_2002-20-191-206.pdf.

Since I didn’t know the publication, I checked on some of the contributors…especially since the documentation was on such a small population. Well, will you look at that; Gary Schwartz is a local teaching at The University of Arizona. This is his faculty entry at http://neurology.arizona.edu/gary-e-schwartz-phd  

“Dr. Schwartz is Professor of Psychology, Medicine, Neurology, Psychiatry and Surgery. He is the Director of the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health (LACH, formerly the Human Energy Systems Laboratory). After receiving his doctorate from Harvard University, he served as a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Yale University, director of the Yale Psychophysiology Center, and co-director of the Yale Behavioral Medicine Clinic. Dr. Schwartz has published more than four hundred scientific papers, edited eleven academic books, is the author of several books including The Afterlife Experiments, The Truth About Medium, The G.O.D. Experiments, and The Energy Healing Experiments.”

As for Dr. Armour, his full name seems to be Dr. John Andrew Amour. I found a host of books he’s edited or written and conferences where he’s spoken.

I’m convinced cellular memory exists. I leave it up to you if you can – or even want to – accept this theory.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

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Updated

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast Stats

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Two Masters

A friend of mine, the one I mentioned when I wrote about renal sally ports, recently has had a relapse. Yep, he neglected to take his medications at the proper times. That can cause havoc for mental illness, especially bipolar disorder. It got me to thinking. What if my friend had Chronic Kidney Disease AND bipolar disease? How could he handle both diagnoses at the same time?

Let’s start at the beginning. There are certain drugs I take in the hopes of delaying dialysis as long as possible. One of those is the ACE Inhibitor I’d been taking for hypertension for about two decades before I was even diagnosed with CKD. Here’s the definition from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease: “ACE Inhibitor: A blood pressure medication that lowers protein in the urine if you have CKD.”

It works by both relaxing the blood vessels and reducing the blood volume. This, in turn, lowers your blood pressure which, in turn, lowers your heart’s oxygen needs. And the problem for my friend would be? Well, maybe just remembering to take the medication each day.

However, according to MedicineNet.com at http://www.medicinenet.com/ace_inhibitors/page2.htm,
The most common side effects are:
• Cough
• Elevated blood potassium levels
• Low blood pressure
• Dizziness
• Headache
• Drowsiness
• Weakness
• Abnormal taste (metallic or salty taste)
• Rash
• Chest pain
• Increased uric acid levels
• Sun sensitivity
• Increased BUN and creatinine levels

Did you notice increased uric acid levels, and increased BUN and creatinine levels? This could be a dicey medication for CKD patients if they did not heed their doctor’s advice once (s)he has evaluated the patient’s labs. That’s the problem here: not having the ability to be a compliant patient during a bipolar episode.

I was also prescribed a drug for cholesterol, a statin. This drug inhibits (the word of the day) an enzyme in the liver that produces lipids. As reported in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1:
According to Dr. Dr. Robert Provenzano, chief of nephrology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, “…LDL, bad cholesterol, directly impacts acceleration of Chronic Kidney Disease.” One of the possible side effects is of this drug is Type 2 Diabetes. All I can say about that is thank goodness these side effects are not the norm.

Here’s the problem: statins have to be taken at night. That’s when the body produces cholesterol. Again, can my friend be compliant during an episode? What about the drugs he already takes? Are they going to somehow interfere with these common drugs for CKD?

Lithium is the usual drug for him. This is from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:
“There were two Plenary Sessions I attended at the Southwest Nephrology Conference I attended last weekend. It was at the second one, ‘Psychiatric issues in kidney patients’ that I suddenly sprang to attention. What was this man saying? Something about lithium doubling the risk for Chronic Kidney Disease? And I was off… how many psychiatric patients knew that fact? How many of their caretakers knew that just in case the patient was not responsible at the time of treatment? What about children? Did their parents know? Was a screening for CKD performed BEFORE lithium was prescribed?”

Kidney.org at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lithium has me downright frightened for my friend:

“What is lithium?
Lithium is a common medicine used to help calm mood for treating people with mental disorders. Since such disorders need lifelong treatment, long-term use of lithium may be harmful to organs, such as the kidneys.

How does lithium cause kidney damage?
Lithium may cause problems with kidney health. Kidney damage due to lithium may include acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term) kidney disease and kidney cysts. The amount of kidney damage depends on how long you have been taking lithium. It is possible to reverse kidney damage caused by lithium early in treatment, but the damage may become permanent over time.

What is nephrogenic diabetes insipidus?
The most common problem from taking lithium is a form of diabetes due to kidney damage called nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. This type of diabetes is different than diabetes mellitus caused by high blood sugar. In nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, the kidneys cannot respond to anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), a chemical messenger that controls fluid balance. This results in greater than normal urine out-put and excessive thirst. It can be hard to treat nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.”

I keep reminding myself that the word “may” appears over and over again. Yet, since my friend either wasn’t taking his medication at all or not taking it as prescribed, it wasn’t working…and he is still at risk for CKD.

I found this tidbit on Drugs.com at https://www.drugs.com/interactions-check.php?drug_list=1477-0,1489-0, ACE Inhibitors: “…may increase the blood levels and effects of lithium. You may need a dose adjustment or more frequent monitoring by your doctor to safely use both medications.” Wait. So you need an ACE Inhibitor if you have CKD, but it can interfere with the lithium you take if you’re bi-polar. And statins? While I couldn’t find any interactions, I did find the caution that there may be some and to check with your doctor. I am aware he takes an anti-depressant, but in researching, have discovered there are many that are safe to take with CKD.

My friend usually goes to his medical appointments, but he neglects to mention certain symptoms and sometimes has trouble telling reality from non-reality. Does he know whether his doctor has warned him about the higher risk of CKD or not? Does he know that he may develop a form of diabetes from long term use of lithium? Does he know that if even one of his parents has CKD, his risk is doubled yet again?

Tomorrow is July 4th, the day the United States celebrates its independence from the tyranny of England. Where is my friend’s independence from the tyranny of his mental illness? The English and the United States have learned to peacefully share our existences (right, English readers?). Here’s hoping my friend can learn to peacefully share his existence with bipolar disorder… and CKD should he develop it. Heaven forbid.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

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!

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