James’s Kidney Transplant Wasn’t Preemptive

Last week, the third week of National Kidney Month, Kevin Fowler told us his story of the journey to his preemptive kidney transplant. This week, the fourth of National Kidney Month, James will tell us of his journey to a non preemptive kidney transplant. In case you were wondering, James and I met at an AAKP meeting in Tampa several years ago and just never lost contact. But let’s allow Uncle Jim (as he prefers to be called) tell his story.

My name is James Myers. I live in Hammond, IN. I am an ESRD & PKD patient. I was lucky enough to have a transplant on April 27th, 2016. I write to you today to tell you my story, as well as my experiences with polycystic kidney disease. At the age of 25, I went into the hospital with chest pain. From a simple x-ray, I was diagnosed with PKD.

I have lost five members of my family to PKD, including my dad. Because of my family’s history, I was immediately referred to Dr. Hellman, a nephrologist at Indiana University Health. He promptly put me on high blood pressure medication and a renal diet. I faithfully followed up at the kidney clinic every six months and took my medicine. I did the best I could do to stay on the kidney diet. There is no cure for PKD, and at that time, there was very little they could do for me.

I tried to ignore my condition and carry on with my life, but in reality, the fact is that after I was diagnosed with kidney failure, all of my decisions were colored by my impending death, or so I thought. It was a factor in a failed marriage, a legal career being cut short, and two professorships at two different colleges lost. I loved being with the kids.

Every step that I took from the date of my diagnosis was for one reason and one reason only; to avoid dialysis. I was able to do that for over 30 years, but in 2012. I could not delay it any longer. I began passing out, at home, in my classroom, everywhere. Many times after passing out, I was fearful I would be unable to reach the phone and call for help. I lived alone, and this caused a great deal of anxiety. At the age of 58, on July 28th, I started what would be a four year stretch on dialysis. My schedule was three days a week, four hours per session.

I was very, very angry when I first went on dialysis. After watching my dad die, I felt this was the beginning of the end. I had dreaded this for a long time. My dad passed after a short five years on dialysis, and I felt I was on the same life path as he. My days were numbered. I observed that many of my clinic mates came to the center by ambulance, were brought in on a gurney, walker, or wheelchair. Many used a cane. Many were diabetic on top of ESRD, and had suffered amputations. Five people were 90 years old or more. One woman was autistic and had the mentality of a 10 year old.

One of my dearest friends, Maureen O’Brien, looked after me. She forced me to open my eyes. I was able to drive and walk around on my own power. I had a fairly clear mind. I was taking classes toward two MBAs and was teaching other MBA candidates at the same time. Maureen had been dealing with kidney disease since the age of six. Every step along the way she had to argue and fight with healthcare officials. She had three transplants. Maureen provided encouragement and a bright, vivid smile. She provided a light on my path.

I began to understand my role. I made a conscious choice. I wanted to help my fellow Kidney Patients. I wanted to use my loud voice to help others. I wanted to advocate for my clinic mates who could not advocate for themselves. I did not like the way the dialysis clinics, the government, and the care staff pushed around or neglected my fellow Kidney Patients. The last straw for me was when they began to push for the cutting of funds to dialysis patients and clinics. I looked around the room and I realized with my health and skill set, I was the only one who could help. It occurred to me that if i did not accept this responsibility, maybe no one else would.

I joined as many kidney organizations as I could, I applied to be an advocate for as many groups as I could. I became very, very active on social media. I wrote petitions, I blogged, I contacted newspapers, I spoke and visited with my Congressman and Senators. I spoke frequently. To this day, I do whatever I have to do to bring about change for my fellow Kidney Patients. My life has purpose now. I like to think that my dad & Maureen would be proud of me.

I know that many of you are not used to me writing this way. I feel it is my responsibility to lift spirits, so I rarely talk about personal issues anymore. It is my hope to inspire others to likewise advocate for our fellow Kidney Patients. My friend Gail asked me to write my story out. Gail has been very candid with me, so I felt as she advocates for us, I should be just as candid with her & all of you. The point of this Kidney Story is to raise hope and to thank Gail and all of you that advocate for Kidney Patients.

PKD affects approximately 600, 000 Americans and 12.5 million people worldwide. It is one of the most inherited diseases on the planet. Polycystic Kidney Disease is more common than Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Muscular Dystrophy, Hemophilia, Downs Syndrome, and Hodgkins Disease combined. PKD is one of the four leading causes of Kidney Failure. It costs the federal government in excess of $2 Billion annually in Medicare and Medicaid costs for dialysis, transportation and related treatment. There is no cure.

Sincerely,

James Myers
2019 Advocate of the Year for the NKF
BOD and Ambassador for the AAKP
Ambassador for the Chronic Disease Coalition
Ambassador for the NKF of Indiana
Ambassador for the American Kidney Fund
Ambassador for the PKD Foundation
Ambassador for the DPC

Thank you, Uncle Jim, for your generous sharing and even more generous advocacy.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Kevin Got His Preemptive Kidney Transplant

Several years ago,  I was invited to a kidney disease meeting. That’s where I first met Kevin Fowler, Principal of The Voice of the Patient, Inc. I liked listening to his ideas. Later, we walked into each other at an AAKP conference. This time I thoroughly enjoyed his company, but had quite a few questions about pre-emptive transplants. Kevin was good enough to explain his story, which answers my questions, in this guest blog during National Kidney Month. Take it away, Kevin! 

Kidney disease has always been a part of my life.  When I was growing up, my mom told me stories about her father who had suffered from Autosomal Polycystic Kidney Disease ( ADPKD), a disease which prompts the growth of cysts on the kidneys. My mom was the oldest of three sisters, and had great love and affection for my grandfather, Hubert Duvall.  I never had a chance to meet him because he died before I was born. It was the late 1950s when he was admitted to the hospital because he was not feeling well. Unknown to him, he was experiencing uremia, the inability of the kidneys to rid themselves of waste products such as urea, as he went into kidney failure. Shortly after his hospital admission he died.  As he neared death, he learned that ADPKD was the cause of his kidney failure. 

My grandfather’s patient journey had a profound impact upon his three daughters: Mary Ann, Ruth, and Laverne in that his genetic disease was passed on to each of them.  My mom, Mary Ann, was diagnosed after the birth of her third child. Imagine the joy of giving birth to a child while being diagnosed with a disease with limited scientific knowledge and a very uncertain future.  My mom and dad faced the unknown with a positive attitude, but with very little professional guidance.

As a young boy, I was very close to my mom.  I felt her unconditional love for me, and her whole life was dedicated to her three children.  As her ADPKD advanced, I saw her suffer with the disease. I saw her experience constant back pain, routine exhaustion and nausea.  All of this physical suffering was difficult to understand as a young child. Moreover, what was really difficult was the look on her face as she faced a nebulous future.

Eventually, my mom’s kidneys failed.  Unlike my grandfather, hemodialysis was available as a treatment option to sustain her life.  She started hemodialysis at the age of 48. While she approached dialysis with optimism, her future was never clear to her or our family.  I saw my mom struggle to survive on dialysis. I saw her return home from dialysis feeling exhausted and tired. I saw that when she had a rough hemodialysis session, it would take her longer to recover from the treatment.  She never bemoaned her fate, and provided us the legacy of her example.

After four and a half years on hemodialysis, my mom died at the age of 52.  Her dialysis experience left an indelible impression upon me. From that point on, I lived in fear that I would face the same fate.  I choose to never determine if I had the same disease. In many ways, it was a rational decision. Interventions were not able to slow down the progression of ADPKD.  If I were diagnosed with ADPKD, I would be penalized. I would face difficulty obtaining health and life insurance. The fear of facing the same patient journey as my mom was always hanging over my head, and I didn’t have the courage to determine if I too had ADPKD.  

I was married to my wife, Kathy, in 1995, and in less than five years we had two children.  During this time, I was being seen by a primary care physician who was aware of my ADPKD family history.  My kidney function was tested on my annual appointments, and he told me that my kidney function was fine. He stated that if I had ADPKD, there was not much that could be done to slow down the progression.  Later that same year near the Christmas season, I experienced deep flank (the side of your body between the bottom rib and the hip) pain. Initially, I attributed it to moving some furniture. The pain persisted, and because of my additional responsibilities as a husband and father, I called my primary care physician requesting an ultrasound test.  The ultrasound test would determine once and for all whether I too had ADPKD.

On a cold and sunny day in January 2001, my physician administered the ultrasound test. Watching his reaction told me all I needed to know.  At the age of 39, I was informed that I would be in kidney failure within the next three to five years. He offered to make a nephrology referral, but I declined.  Since he had not demonstrated competence managing my condition, I intuitively sensed that I could not trust his referral would serve my best interests. 

At that time, I was working in the pharmaceutical industry, so I called a physician friend at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis seeking a nephrology recommendation.  On my mother’s birthday, I met with my nephrologist – who had a profound impact on my life. He informed me that it was not necessary to be on dialysis, and that I could have a preemptive kidney transplant.  Because of my fear, I had never taken the time to learn about the different End Stage Kidney Disease treatment options. I was incredibly fortunate to receive the best treatment option.

On this recently past World Kidney Day, the theme was prevention due to detection.  In the United States approximately 90% of those with Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease are unaware of their condition.  This is no longer acceptable. The American Kidney Health Executive Order has initiated a public campaign to detect kidney disease earlier.  In fact, the National Kidney Foundation and CVS Kidney Care launched their public awareness campaign this month, National Kidney Month.  Unlike when I was diagnosed, there are now approved treatments to slow down the progression of kidney diseases.  There are potentially additional treatments in the pipeline for ADPKD, Diabetic Kidney Disease, FSGS, IGAN, etc. For many people there is no longer a need to live in fear.  There is a very real possibility that their patient journey may change for the better.

Thank you, Kevin, for sharing your personal kidney journey with us. Kevin may be reached via email at kevinjohnfowler@gmail.com or on Twitter as @gratefull080504.

 

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Missing the Connection

During this second week of National Kidney Month, we have another reader directed blog. She had stumbled across The Long Awaited Sulfa Blog and had some questions about it and NAC. Hold on, I’ll get to NAC in a moment. Let’s start with sulfite, which I had always thought was not the same as sulfa. Did our reader mistype? Her verbatim question was, “Have you heard anything about NAC and CKD with sulfite sensitivity?”

According to MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=27721:

“Sulfite sensitivity: Adverse reactions of an allergic nature to sulfites. Sulfites occur in fermentation and also occur naturally in a number of foods and beverages including wine. Sulfites are used for their preservative properties. Sulfite sensitivity occurs most often in asthmatic adults — predominantly women. It is uncommon in preschool children. Adverse reactions to sulfites in nonasthmatics are rare. Sulfite sensitivity reactions range from mild to severe and may include skin, respiratory, or gastrointestinal signs and symptoms. Bronchoconstriction with wheezing is the most common sensitivity response in asthmatics.”

While I do know this reader is a woman, I do not know if she is asthmatic or a wine drinker.

Let’s move along to NAC. Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nac-benefits#section12 (Yes, that is the same Healthline that chose SlowItDownCKD as best kidney blog two years in a row.) tells us, it is N-Acetyl Cysteine and explains what this supplement is and what it can do for you. I added asterisks next to definitions you may need.

“Cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid.

It’s considered semi-essential because your body can produce it from other amino acids, namely methionine and serine. It becomes essential only when the dietary intake of methionine and serine is low.

Cysteine is found in most high-protein foods, such as chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds and legumes.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a supplement form of cysteine.

Consuming adequate cysteine and NAC is important for a variety of health reasons — including replenishing the most powerful antioxidant in your body, glutathione. These amino acids also help with chronic respiratory conditions, fertility and brain health.

Here are the top 9 health benefits of NAC.

  1. Essential for Making the Powerful Antioxidant Glutathione

NAC is valued primarily for its role in antioxidant production.

Along with two other amino acids — glutamine and glycine — NAC is needed to make and replenish glutathione.

*Glutathione is one of the body’s most important antioxidants, which helps neutralize free radicals that can damage cells and tissues in your body.

It’s essential for immune health and fighting cellular damage. Some researchers believe it may even contribute to longevity ….

Its antioxidant properties are also important for combatting numerous other ailments caused by oxidative stress, such as heart disease, infertility and some psychiatric conditions….

  1. Helps With Detoxification to Prevent or Diminish Kidney and Liver Damage

NAC plays an important role in your body’s detoxification process.

It can help prevent side effects of drugs and environmental toxins….

In fact, doctors regularly give intravenous (IV) NAC to people with an acetaminophen overdose to prevent or reduce kidney and liver damage ….

NAC also has applications for other liver diseases due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits ….

  1. May Improve Psychiatric Disorders and Addictive Behavior

*NAC helps regulate levels of glutamate — the most important neurotransmitter in your brain….

While glutamate is required for normal brain action, excess glutamate paired with glutathione depletion can cause brain damage.

This may contribute to mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and addictive behavior….

For people with bipolar disease and depression, NAC may help decrease symptoms and improve your overall ability to function. What’s more, research suggests that it may play a role in treating moderate to severe OCD ….

NAC supplements can also help decrease withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse in cocaine addicts ….

  1. Helps Relieve Symptoms of Respiratory Conditions

NAC can relieve symptoms of respiratory conditions by acting as an antioxidant and expectorant, loosening mucus in your air passageways.

As an antioxidant, NAC helps replenish glutathione levels in your lungs and reduces inflammation in your bronchial tubes and lung tissue.

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience long-term oxidative damage and inflammation of lung tissue, which causes airways to constrict — leading to shortness of breath and coughing.

NAC supplements have been used to improve COPD symptoms, exacerbations and lung decline ….

Those with chronic bronchitis can also benefit from NAC.

Bronchitis occurs when the mucous membranes in your lungs’ bronchial passageways become inflamed, swell and shut off airways to your lungs….

By thinning mucus in your bronchial tubes and boosting glutathione levels, NAC may help decrease the severity and frequency of wheezing, coughing and respiratory attacks ….

In addition to relieving COPD and bronchitis, NAC may improve other lung and respiratory tract conditions like cystic fibrosis, asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, as well as symptoms of nasal and sinus congestion due to allergies or infections ….

  1. Boosts Brain Health by Regulating Glutamate and Replenishing Glutathione

NAC’s ability to replenish glutathione and regulate brain glutamate levels can boost brain health.

*The brain neurotransmitter glutamate is involved in a broad range of learning, behavior and memory actions, while the antioxidant glutathione helps reduce oxidative damage to brain cells associated with aging….

Because NAC helps regulate glutamate levels and replenish glutathione, it may benefit those with brain and memory ailments ….

NAC supplements appear to improve both dopamine function and disease symptoms such as tremors ….

  1. May Improve Fertility in Both Men and Women

Approximately 15% of all couples trying to conceive are affected by infertility. In almost half of these cases, male infertility is the main contributing factor ….

Many male infertility issues increase when antioxidant levels are insufficient to combat free radical formation in your reproductive system. The oxidative stress can cause cell death and reduced fertility ….

In some cases, NAC has been shown to improve male fertility….

In addition, NAC may improve fertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) by inducing or augmenting the ovulation cycle ….

  1. May Stabilize Blood Sugar By Decreasing Inflammation in Fat Cells

High blood sugar and obesity contribute to inflammation in fat tissue.

This can lead to damage or destruction of insulin receptors and put you at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes ….

  1. May Reduce Heart Disease Risk by Preventing Oxidative Damage

Oxidative damage to heart tissue often leads to heart disease, causing strokes, heart attacks and other serious conditions.

NAC may reduce heart disease risk by reducing oxidative damage to tissues in your heart ….

It has also been shown to increase nitric oxide production, which helps veins dilate and improves blood flow. This expedites blood transit back to your heart and can lower your risk of heart attacks ….

  1. Ability to Boost Glutathione Levels May Improve Immune Function

NAC and glutathione also boost immune health.

Research on certain diseases associated with NAC and glutathione deficiency suggests that immune function might be improved — and potentially restored — by supplementing with NAC….

High levels of NAC in your body may also suppress HIV-1 reproduction.

For your body to make the amino acid cysteine, you need adequate amounts of folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. These nutrients can be found in beans, lentils, spinach, bananas, salmon and tuna.

While most protein-rich foods, such as chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds and legumes, contain cysteine, some people choose to supplement with NAC to increase their cysteine intake.

NAC has low bioavailability as an oral supplement, meaning that it’s not well absorbed. The accepted daily supplement recommendation is 600–1,800 mg of NAC ….”

Okay, I don’t get it. Have I missed something about the connection between sulfite sensitivity and NAC? If you can find what I missed, please let us know.

Ah, if only I could have been more helpful.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

How Will They Know?

Let’s start this month with a guest blog by American Medical Alert IDs. Why? Although I am not endorsing this particular brand, because I clearly remember being give Sulphur drugs in the Emergency Room when I was by myself and unable to let the medical staff there know I have Chronic Kidney Disease. Why? Because I remember that my husband fell when I was out of town. His grown children took him to the emergency room but didn’t know about his latex allergy and he was in no condition to explain.

 

Everything You Need To Know About Medical Alert IDs for Chronic Kidney Disease


Are you debating on getting a medical alert ID for chronic kidney disease? It’s time to take the confusion out of choosing and engraving a medical ID. This post will show you everything you need to know so you can enjoy the benefits of wearing one.

Why Kidney Patients Should Wear a Medical Alert ID

A medical ID serves as an effective tool to alert emergency staff of a patient’s special care needs, even when a person can’t speak for themselves. When every second counts, wearing a medical ID can help protect the kidney and safeguard its remaining function.

In emergencies, anyone diagnosed with chronic kidney disease or kidney failure may require special medical attention and monitoring. It is important that patients are able to communicate and identify their medical condition at all times. This includes individuals who are:

  • Undergoing in-center hemodialysis
  • Undergoing home hemodialysis
  • On Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD)
  • On Continuous Cycling Peritoneal Dialysis (CCPD)
  • Transplant recipients
  • Diagnosed with diabetes

Delays in getting the proper treatment needed for chronic kidney disease may lead to the following complications:

  • Fatal levels of potassium or hyperkalemia. This condition can lead to dangerous, and possibly deadly, changes in the heart rhythm.
  • Increased risk of peritonitis or inflammation of the membranes of the abdominal wall and organs. Peritonitis is a life-threatening emergency that needs prompt medical treatment.
  • Anemia or decreased supply in red blood cells. Anemia can make a patient tired, weak, and short of breath.
  • Heart disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and stroke
  • High blood pressure which can cause further damage to the kidneys and negatively impact blood vessels, heart, and other organs in the body.
  • Fluid buildup in the body that can cause problems with the heart and lungs.

According to Medscape, the most common cause of sudden death in patients with ESRD is hyperkalemia, which often follows missed dialysis or dietary indiscretion. The most common cause of death overall in the dialysis population is cardiovascular disease; cardiovascular mortality is 10-20 times higher in dialysis patients than in the general population.

Kidney Patients Who Wear a Medical ID Have 62% Lower Risk of Renal Failure

In a study of 350 patients, primarily in CKD stages 2 through 5, those who wore a medical ID bracelet or necklace had a 62% lower risk of developing kidney failure, based on eGFR. Wearing a medical-alert bracelet or necklace was associated with a lower risk of developing kidney failure compared with usual care.

Wearing a medical ID can serve as a reminder to look after your health and make the right choices such as taking medication on time and sticking to proper diet.

6 Things to Engrave on Kidney Disease Medical ID

A custom engraved medical alert jewelry can hold precise information that is specific to the wearer’s health condition. Here are some of the most important items to put on a chronic kidney disease or kidney failure medical ID:

  • Name
  • Medical information – including if you have other medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Stage of CKD or kidney function
  • Transplant information
  • Current list of medicines
  • Contact person

Some patients have a long list of medications that may not fit on the engraved part of an ID. An emergency wallet card is recommended to use for listing down your medicines and other information or medical history.

 

Click here to enlarge chronic kidney disease infographic

Do you wear or carry a form of medical identification with you? Please share your experience or tips with us by posting a comment.

Ready for a new topic? All right then. Ever have a problem drinking your coffee? I know I have… until I followed these tips from the Cleveland Clinic at https://health.clevelandclinic.org/coffee-giving-you-tummy-trouble-try-these-low-acid-options/:

Here’s hoping that next cup of coffee treats you well.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

The Reluctant Donor

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

author of The Reluctant Donor

Freelance writer for The Charlotte Observer

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

Living Donor Council of The National Kidney Foundation (NKF)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

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!

Coming Home

I’m not a joiner. I’ve never been one. That’s why I was so surprised that I joined the American Association of Kidney Patients… and even more surprised to find myself attending this year’s conference in Tampa Bay, Florida. Readers had been suggesting I do so for years, but I’m not a joiner. Let’s change that; I wasn’t a joiner. The AAKP conference made the difference.

What’s that you ask? Of course, you need to know what they are. This is from their website at https://aakp.org/,

THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF KIDNEY PATIENTS SINCE 1969™

The American Association of Kidney Patients is dedicated to improving the quality of life for kidney patients through education, advocacy, patient engagement and the fostering of patient communities.

Education

The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) is recognized as the leader for patient-centered education – continually developing high quality, professionally written, edited and reviewed educational pieces covering every level of kidney disease.

Advocacy

For nearly 50 years, AAKP has been the patient voice – advocating for improved access to high-quality health care through regulatory and legislative reform at the federal level. The Association’s work has improved long term outcomes in both quality of health and the ability for patients and family members affected by kidney disease to lead a more productive and meaningful life.

Community

AAKP is leading the effort to bring kidney patients together to promote community, conversations and to seek out services that help maximize patients’ everyday lives.

An IRS registered, Sec. 501(C)(3) organization, AAKP is governed by a Board of Directors. The current board is comprised of dialysis patients, chronic kidney disease patients, [Me here: You did notice ‘chronic kidney disease patients,’ right?] transplant recipients, health care professionals and members of the public concerned with kidney disease. The board and membership are serviced by a staff of five employees under the direction of Diana Clynes, Interim Executive Director, at the AAKP National Office located in Tampa, Florida.”

What’s not mentioned here is that the organization was started by only six patients. I find that astounding, but I’ll let them explain their history:

Founded by Patients for Patients

King County Hospital, New York

The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) has a rich history in patient advocacy and kidney disease education. AAKP started in 1969 with six dialysis patients at King County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. They wanted to form an organization that would elevate the kidney patient voice in national health care arena, provide patients with educational resources to improve their lives and give kidney patients and their family members a sense of community. They met twice a week in the hospital ward and while hooked up to primitive dialysis machines for 12 to 18 hours at a time they brainstormed, researched and eventually formed AAKP.

The group originally called themselves NAPH (National Association of Patients on Hemodialysis, which later changed to AAKP). AAKP joined forces with other patient groups to fight for the enactment of the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Program, testifying before congressional committees, seeking public support and creating a newsletter (the forerunner of today’s AAKP RENALIFE) to keep everyone informed. This effort was crowned with success in 1972 when Congress enacted the program that continues to provide Medicare funding for dialysis and kidney transplantation.

After winning the initial and critical battle for the Medicare ESRD Program, AAKP turned its attention to other important issues — the need to establish a secure national organization to preserve the visibility and influence of patients with Congress and to develop national, educational and supportive programs.

Today & Beyond

AAKP has grown into a nationally recognized patient organization that reaches over 1 million people yearly. It remains dedicated to providing patients with the education and knowledge necessary to ensure quality of life and quality of health.”

This former non-joiner has found her association. I originally avoided the conferences because I thought they would be focused only on dialysis and transplant patients. Boy, was I ever wrong. Here are some of the outbreak (small group) sessions that dealt with other aspects of kidney disease:

Social Media (You’re right: I signed up for that one right away since I identify as a CKD awareness advocate.)

Dental Health

How Kidney Disease Impacts Family Members

Managing the Early Stage of CKD

Understanding Clinical Trials

Treatment Options

Staying Active

Veterans Administration

Caregiver’s Corner

Living Well with Kidney Disease

Avoid Infections

Of course, there were many outbreak sessions for dialysis and transplant patients as well. And there were two opportunities to lunch with experts. That’s where I tentatively learned about governmental aspects of our disease. There were opportunities to learn about nutrition, medications, working, and coping. I’ve just mentioned a few of the 50 different topics discussed.

The general sessions, the ones everyone attended, informed us of what the government’s national policy had to do with kidney disease, legislation, nutrition, patient centered care, and innovation in care (Keep an eye out for Third Kidney, Inc.’s August guest blog.).

I have not covered even half of what was offered during the conference. Did I mention renal friendly food was available and you could dialyze near the hotel if need be? The exhibitors went beyond friendly and explaining their products to being interested in who you were and why you were there. This was the most welcoming conference I’d been to in decades.

AAKP President Paul Conway summed up my feelings about the conference when he was interviewed by The Tampa Bay Times on the last day of the conference,

“This meeting is a way for us to bring patients together and educate them on trends that could affect their own health.”

I met so many others who have kidney disease and so many others who advocate for different types of kidney disease and patients’ rights. I was educated about so many areas, especially those I previously had known nothing about, for example, legislation. It was like coming home. Would I attend again? You bet’cha. Would I urge you to attend? At the risk of being redundant, you bet’cha.

I was so excited about AAKP that I almost didn’t leave myself enough space to tell you about yet another freebie. The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 is no longer in print since it has been divided into SlowItDownCKD 2011 and SlowItDownCKD 2012. But I still have a desk copy. Let me know if you’d like it. My only restriction is that you have not received a free book from me before.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Sorry Spiderman, That was Webinars not Webshooters

So much has been going on in my world lately that it was hard to choose what to write about today. In addition to my family, there’s the experience of my first American Association of Kidney Patients Conference, PKD, KidneyX and the list goes on. It was hard to choose, that is, until the American Kidney Fund sent me the following information. They explain who they are, what they do, and why they hold their free monthly educational seminars. Good timing here since the next webinar is this Friday. I’ll let them take over for a while and write some more once they’re done.

Oh, wait. First we need to know what a webinar is. My favorite online dictionary, Merriam-Webster, at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/webinar defines this in the following way:

“a live online educational presentation during which participating viewers can submit questions and comments”

That means it’s real time; you have to be online to participate. Don’t worry if the time doesn’t work for you because AKF has former webinars on their websites. You just won’t be able to ask your own questions, although you will be able to hear the questions others have asked during the webinar and the answers they received. Okay, now we turn this section of the blog over to The American Kidney Fund.

“The American Kidney Fund (AKF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people fight kidney disease and lead healthier lives.  Living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) or kidney failure is incredibly taxing, and can put strain on all elements of a person’s life. And although doctors are available for patients to ask questions about their disease, many kidney patients do not know what they should ask, and are left needing answers even after leaving a doctor’s appointment.

AKF believes every patient and caregiver has the right to understand what is going on with their health, or the health of their loved one, and how to best manage it. That is where we come in.

The American Kidney Fund hosts free, monthly, educational webinars meant for patients and caregivers. Each webinar explores a different topic relevant to living well with kidney disease. Since the webinar program’s launch in 2016, AKF has hosted over 27 webinars on many topics including nutrition, employment, insurance, transplant, exercise, heart disease, advocacy, pregnancy, mental health, and more.

Webinar speakers are carefully chosen based on their knowledge, and ability to connect with a patient audience. This ensures we deliver the highest quality of information in the best way. Some speakers are kidney patients or kidney donors themselves.  The webinars are delivered from a variety of perspectives so that the advice given is both relatable and reliable.

AKF aims to take complex topics and simplify the content without taking away from the quality of information.  In an effort to be inclusive of non-English speakers, AKF has hosted a webinar entirely in Spanish on preventing and treating kidney disease, and is in the process of translating even more webinars into Spanish.

One of the highlights of the American Kidney Fund webinars is the live Q&A session held during the last 15-20 minutes of each presentation, when the audience can ask their questions in real time and receive an immediate answer from our speaker. This creates a unique space for our attendees to interact anonymously with an expert in a judgement-free zone. We understand the time-demands of being a kidney patient or caregiver, which is why all our webinars, along with the PowerPoint slides, are also uploaded to the AKF website for on-demand viewing.

Our next webinar is on Friday, June 22 from 1-2pm (EST) and will discuss why phosphorus is an important nutrient for kidney patients to consider, and the best ways to manage phosphorus through diet and medicine.  Carolyn Feibig, the dietitian and speaker for this webinar is exceptionally knowledgeable and enthusiastic about her field. If you have questions about how to manage a CKD-friendly diet, this is your opportunity to learn more and to ask your questions.

After each webinar we ask for feedback and suggestions from our audience about future webinars.  We invite you to register now, and then share which topics you would like to hear about next. We hope you will use our webinars as a tool to live the healthiest life possible with kidney disease.

American Kidney Fund www.kidneyfund.org/webinars

I looked at some of their past webinar topics and was impressed with the variety.

My office is abuzz. SlowItDownCKD 2013, both digital and print, is available on Amazon. Give it a few weeks before it appears on B&N.com. I’m excited because I vowed to separate the unwieldy, small print, indexless The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 into two separate books with a SlowItDownCKD title, index, and larger print just as I’d done with The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 (which is no longer available since it is now SlowItDownCKD 2011 and SlowItDownCKD 2012). That’s half way done now, boys and girls… I mean readers.

Here’s something a bit unusual: I have a request from a reader who has the rare kidney disease Calyceal Diverticulum. Rather than asking me to write about it, she’s looking for others with the same disease. Do we have any readers here with this disease? If so, we could make the blog a safe place to connect. Or you could email me and I’d pass on your information to her. Alternately, with her permission, I could pass her information to you. I can understand her need to communicate with others with the same disease, so please do let me know if you’d like to communicate with her.

And last, but not least, and I have to admit brain fog has me here, so bear with me if you’ve read this before. In digging through the morass of my desk, (I have been traveling a lot lately.) I uncovered a beta copy of SlowItDownCKD 2017. That means it has all the content, but I didn’t like the formatting so I re-did it. Would you like it? If so, just be the first one to contact me to let me know. Oh, one restriction: only those who haven’t received a free book from me before, please. I’d like to share the CKD information with as many people as possible.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

PKD: That’s News to Me

For the last eight years, I’ve pretty much stuck to writing about Chronic Kidney Disease with an exception here or there. When I was at a pharmaceutical think tank to help the company understand how they could be more helpful to kidney patients, I met a woman with polycystic kidney disease (PKD).

I’d heard of it and knew it had to do with multiple cysts on the kidneys, but that’s all I knew. That got me to thinking. Why didn’t I know more and what more should I know about it? So I did what I do best: decided to write about it.

Right now, the former English teacher in me is begging to come out. Indulge me, please. Poly is a prefix meaning many. Cyst means an abnormal sac in the body which contains air, fluid, or a semi-solid substance. Thank you What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for the definition of cyst. Ic is simply a suffix meaning of or about. Aren’t you glad I studied English at Hunter College of the City University of New York all those years ago?

Seriously now, I turned to PKD Info at https://www.pkdinfo.com/ only to discover there are two different kinds of polycystic kidney disease. Let’s start with a simple definition of the term PKD.

“PKD describes a group of genetic diseases that cause cysts to form and grow in the kidney. Genetic diseases are the result of changes, or mutations, in a person’s DNA, and can be passed from parent to child. In PKD, cysts are filled with fluid. Over time, they expand, making the kidneys grow larger. This makes it hard for the kidneys to function normally and can lead to kidney failure.”

As for the two different kinds, the PKD Foundation at https://pkdcure.org/what-is-pkd/ tells us:

“There are two types of PKD: autosomal dominant (ADPKD) and autosomal recessive (ARPKD). ADPKD is the more common type and affects more than 600,000 Americans and 12.4 million people worldwide. ARPKD is a rare form of the disease that occurs in 1 in 20,000 children worldwide.

A typical kidney is the size of a human fist and weighs about a third of a pound. PKD kidneys can be much larger, some growing as large as a football, and weighing up to 30 pounds each. The number of cysts can range from just a few to many. The size of the cysts can range from a pinhead to as large as a grapefruit. Although the primary sign of PKD is cysts in the kidneys, there are other symptoms that can occur in various areas of the body.”

I needed more information, especially about how the two types of PKD differ so I turned to my old standby The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/polycystic-kidney-disease/autosomal-dominant-pkd  and found the following information:

“’Autosomal dominant’ means you can get the PKD gene mutation, or defect, from only one parent. Researchers have found two different gene mutations that cause ADPKD. Most people with ADPKD have defects in the PKD1 gene, and 1 out of 6 or 1 out of 7 people with ADPKD have a defective PKD2 gene….

Health care providers can diagnose people with PKD1 sooner because their symptoms appear sooner. People with PKD1 also usually progress more quickly to kidney failure than people with PKD2. How quickly ADPKD progresses also differs from person to person.”

Symptoms? What symptoms? The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/polycystic-kidney-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352820 answered that question:

“Polycystic kidney disease symptoms may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Back or side pain
  • Headache
  • Increase in the size of your abdomen
  • Blood in your urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney failure
  • Urinary tract or kidney infections”

Whoa! I’ve got at least four of those symptoms, so how do I know I don’t have PKD? Remember those wonderful people who elected SlowItDownCKD as one of the six best kidney blogs two years in a row? You’re right, it’s Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/polycystic-kidney-disease#diagnosis. As they explained:

“Because ADPKD and ARPKD are inherited, your doctor will review your family history. They may initially order a complete blood count to look for anemia or signs of infection and a urinalysis to look for blood, bacteria, or protein in your urine.

To diagnose all three types of PKD, your doctor may use imaging tests to look for cysts of the kidney, liver, and other organs. Imaging tests used to diagnose PKD include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound. This noninvasive test uses sound waves to look at your kidneys for cysts.
  • Abdominal CT scan. This test can detect smaller cysts in the kidneys.
  • Abdominal MRI scan. This MRI uses strong magnets to image your body to visualize kidney structure and look for cysts.
  • Intravenous pyelogram. This test uses a dye to make your blood vessels show up more clearly on an X-ray.

Did I just read THREE types of PKD? I did. Maybe I’d better find out what the third one is. To do so, I turned to News Medical at https://www.news-medical.net/health/Polycystic-Kidney-Disease-vs-Acquired-Cystic-Kidney-Disease.aspx.

“The cause of ACKD is not fully known, and contrary to PKD, it tends to develop after a patient has had chronic kidney disease for some time – most commonly when they are undergoing renal dialysis to clean the blood (for example, in end stage renal disease). The cysts are created by the build-up of waste products and the deteriorating filtration in the kidneys.”

ACKD is Acquired Cystic Kidney Disease. It seems I have nothing to worry about at this point in my CKD, but I’m wondering how many of you know if there is PKD in your family history. Maybe it’s time to find out. Notice none of the tests are invasive. You know, of course, that we’ve just scratched the surface of PKD information today, right?

I did have cysts show up in both of my kidneys and my liver, but they were very small despite some growth being noticed and there were very few of them. I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet.

How are you beating the heat this summer? I’m hiding in my air conditioned office separating The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 into two less unwieldy books each with larger print and an index. I’ll let you know when SlowItDownCKD 2013 and SlowItDownCKD 2014 are available. Surely you’ve noticed that The Books of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 is no longer for sale. That’s because it has now been separated into SlowItDownCKD 2011 and SlowItDownCKD 2012.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!