CKD and Me

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

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

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

 

Arizona Health & Living  (West Valley)  6/2018

 

MyTherapy Guest Blog    3/8/18

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Edge Podcast  5/19/16

Dear Annie   3/10/14

Renal Diet Headquarters Podcast   2/12/14

 

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

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

The Neuropathy Doctor’s News   9/23/13

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

Indian Community   9/12/13

 

KidneySteps: Gail Rae and SlowItDown  9/11/13

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

National Kidney Foundation: Staying Healthy  6/6/13

KidneySteps: Learning Helps with CKD    7/04/12

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

It Is Just What It Is    3/9/12

Online with Andrea    03/07/12

 

Working with Chronic Illness  2/17/12

 

Libre Tweet Chat with Gail Rae   1/10/12

Kevinmd.com   1/1/12

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

Glendale Community College Gaucho Gazette   8/22/11

 

The NephCure Foundation   8/21/11

Authors Show Radio    8/8/11

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’m Finally Ready to Let National Kidney Month Go

As you already know, I’ve been posting the chapter I contributed to the book 1in9 as my contribution to National Kidney Month. This will probably be the final post of that chapter, unless I decide to post the biography that goes along with the chapter at a later date.

Most of you are aware that I now have pancreatic cancer and the chemo effects are getting in my way. I’m hoping that I’ll not be feeling them so severely in the near future and will be able to research some new material for you. Right now, that’s just not possible. You may have noticed that my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages no longer contain original posts. That’s due to the same reason.

But let’s complete the book chapter:

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

I include guest blogs or book review blogs to get a taste of the currently available CKD news. For example, 1in9 guest blogged this year. Books such as Dr. Mandip S. Kang’s, The Doctor’s Kidney Diets (which also contains so much non-dietary information that we – as CKD patients – need to know), and Drs. Raymond R. Townsend and Debbie L. Cohen’s 100 Questions & Answers about Kidney Disease and Hypertension.

I miss my New York daughter and she misses me, so we sometimes have coffee together separately. She has a cup of coffee and I do at the same time. It’s not like being together in person, but it’s something. You can find support the same way via Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease Support Groups. Some of these groups are:

Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness

Chronic Kidney Disease in India

CKD (Kidney Failure) Support Group International

Dialysis & Kidney Disease

Friends Sharing Positive Chronic Kidney Disease

I Hate Dialysis

Kidney Disease Diet Ideas and Help

Kidney Disease Ideas and Diets1

Kidney Disease is not a Joke

Kidney Disease, Dialysis, and Transplant

Kidney Warriors Foundation

Kidneys and Vets

Mani Trust

Mark’s Private Kidney Disease Group

P2P

People on Dialysis

Sharing your Kidney Journey

Stage 3 ‘n 4 Kidneybeaners Gathering Place

The Transplant Community Outreach

UK Kidney Support

Women’s Renal Failure

Wrap Up Warm for Kidney Disease

What I hit over and over again in the blogs is that diabetes is the foremost cause of CKD with hypertension as the second most common cause. Simple blood and urine tests can uncover your CKD – if you’re part of the unlucky 96% of those in the early stages of the disease who don’t know they have it.

Each time I research, I’m newly amazed at how much there is to learn about CKD…and how many tools you have at your disposal to help slow it down. Diet is the obvious one. But if you smoke or drink, stop, or at least cut down. If you don’t exercise, start. Adequate, good quality sleep is another tool. Don’t underestimate rest either; you’re not being lazy when you rest, you’re preserving whatever kidney function you have left. I am not particularly a pill person, but if there’s a medication prescribed that will slow down the gradual decline of my kidney function, I’m all for it.

I was surprised to discover that writing my SlowItDownCKD book series, maintaining a blog, Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts of the same name are not enough for me for me to spread the word about CKD screening and education. I’m determined to change this since I feel so strongly that NO ONE should have this disease and not be aware of it.

That’s why I’ve brought CKD awareness to every community that would have me: coffee shops, Kiwanis Clubs, independent bookstores, senior citizen centers, guest blogging for the likes of The American Kidney Fund and The National Kidney Foundation, being interviewed by publications like the Wall Street Journal’s Health Matters, The Center for Science in The Public Interest, and The United Federation of Teachers’ New York Teacher, and on podcasts such as The Renal Diet Headquarters, Online with Andrea, The Edge Podcast, Working with Chronic Illness, and Improve Your Kidney Health.

I’ve been very serious about sharing about CKD before it advances to end stage… meaning dialysis. To that end, I gathered a team for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona Kidney Walk one year. Another year, I organized several meetings at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Education is vital since so many people are unaware they even have the disease.

You can slow down the progression of the decline of kidney function. I have been spending a lot of time on my health and I’m happy to say it’s been paying off. There are five stages. I’ve stayed at the middle one for over a decade despite having both high blood pressure and diabetes. That’s what this is about. People don’t know about CKD. They get diagnosed. They think they’re going to die. Everybody dies, but it doesn’t have to be of CKD. I am downright passionate about people knowing this.

Thanks for taking the time to finish the chapter. The more people who know about Chronic Kidney Disease, the more people can tell others about it. I’d hate for anyone to be part of the 90% of those with CKD who don’t know they have it.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

National Kidney Month Extended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

To Continue…

National Kidney Month is just flying by. This is actually the last week and I doubt I’ll be able to post the rest of the 1in9 chapter before next month. But then again, it’s always Kidney Month for those of us with Chronic Kidney Disease. By the way, thank you to the reader who made it a point of telling me she can’t wait to read the rest of the chapter. Sooooo, let’s get started!

***

Nephrologist switch. The new one was much better for me. He explained again and again until I understood and he put up with a lot of verbal abuse when this panicky new patient wasn’t getting answers as quickly as she wanted them. Luckily for me, he graciously accepted my apology.

After talking to the nephrologist, I began to realize just how serious this disease was and started to wonder why my previous nurse practitioner had not caught this. When I asked her why, she responded, “It was inconclusive testing.” Sure it was. Because she never ordered the GFR tested; that had been incidental! I feel there’s no sense crying over spilled milk (or destroyed nephrons, in this case), but I wonder how much more of my kidney function I could have preserved if I’d known about my CKD earlier.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 13 early signs of chronic kidney disease. I never experienced any of them, not even one. While I did have high blood pressure, it wasn’t uncontrollable which is one of the early signs. Many, like me, never experienced any noticeable symptoms. Unfortunately, many, like me, may have had high blood pressure (hypertension) for years before CKD was diagnosed. Yet, high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of CKD. I find it confusing that uncontrollable high blood pressure may be an early sign of CKD, but hypertension itself is the second leading cause of CKD.

Here’s the part about my researching. I was so mystified about what was happening and why it was happening that I began an extensive course of research. My nephrologists did explain what everything meant (I think), but I was still too shocked to understand what they were saying. I researched diagnoses, descriptions of tests, test results, doctors’ reports, you name it. Slowly, it began to make sense, but that understanding only led to more questions and more research.

You’ve probably already guessed that my world changed during that first appointment. I began to excuse myself for rest periods each day when I went back East for a slew of family affairs right after. I counted food groups and calories at these celebrations that summer. And I used all the errand running associated with them as an excuse to speed walk wherever I went and back so I could fit in my exercise. Ah, but that was just the beginning.

My high blood pressure had been controlled for 20 years at that time, but what about my diet? I had no clue there was such a thing as a kidney diet until the nutritionist explained it to me. I’m a miller’s granddaughter and ate anything – and I do mean anything – with grain in it: breads, muffins, cakes, croissants, all of it. I also liked lots of chicken and fish… not the five ounces per day I’m limited to now.

The nutritionist explained to me how hard protein is on the kidneys… as is phosphorous… and potassium… and, of course, sodium. Out went my daily banana—too high in potassium. Out went restaurant burgers—larger than my daily allowance of protein. Chinese food? Pizza? Too high in sodium. I embraced an entirely new way of eating because it was one of the keys to keeping my kidneys functioning in stage 3.

I was in a new food world. I’d already known about restricting sodium because I had high blood pressure, but these other things? I had to keep a list of which foods contain them, how much was in each of these foods, and a running list of how much of each I had during the day so I knew when I reached my limit for that day.

Another critical piece of slowing down CKD is medication. I was already taking meds to lower my blood pressure when I was first diagnosed with CKD. Two more prescriptions have been added to this in the last decade: a diuretic that lowers my body’s absorption of salt to help prevent fluid from building up in my body (edema), and a drug that widens the blood vessels by relaxing them. I take another drug for my brand new diabetes. (Bye-bye, sugars and most carbs.) The funny thing is now my favorite food is salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I never thought that would happen: I was a chocoholic!

Exercise, something I loved until my arthritis got in the way, was also important. I was a dancer. Wasn’t that enough? Uh-uh, I had to learn about cardio and strength training exercise, too. It was no longer acceptable to be pleasantly plumb. My kidneys didn’t need the extra work. Hello to weights, walking, and a stationary bike. I think I took sleep for granted before CKD, too, and I now make it a point to get a good night’s sleep. A sleep apnea device improved my sleep—and my kidney function rose.

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

***

There’s so much more to tell you about my personal CKD journey… and you’ll read more of it next week. Although, I should remind you that the entire book is available in print and digital on both Amazon.com and B&N.com, just as the entire SlowItDownCKD series of books is.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

From a Book…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

National Kidney Month, 2019

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

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

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

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

Focus on the Kidneys During National Kidney Month in March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Bulking Up

While I make sure to state that I’m not a doctor, I’m not always certain my readers get that. This is why I was so glad that a reader asked me a question about her doctor’s advice, prefacing her question by stating that she knows I’m not a doctor. I feel better.

Her question? It’s about fiber and Chronic Kidney Disease. But first, let’s find out exactly what fiber is. According to Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/,

Fiber comes in two varieties, both beneficial to health:

  • Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. Foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries.
  • Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, can help food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation. Foods with insoluble fibers include wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.

The best sources of fiber are whole grain foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts.”

We all know people need fiber, but do you know why? I found the answer stated the most succinctly on Verywell Fit’s site at https://www.verywellfit.com/all-about-fiber-2242215.

“Besides reducing the glycemic effect of meals and contributing to colon health, there is evidence that fiber may benefit us in other ways. It seems to help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and also may help to prevent:

  • Ulcers, particularly in the beginning of the small intestine (duodenal ulcers)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer”

As a diabetic, I understand why I need fiber, but what about as a CKD patient? DaVita at https://www.davita.com/diet-nutrition/articles/basics/fiber-in-the-kidney-diet has that one covered:

“Adequate fiber in the kidney diet can be beneficial to people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) because it:

  • Keeps GI (gastrointestinal) function healthy
  • Adds bulk to stool to prevent constipation
  • Prevents diverticulosis (pockets inside the colon)
  • Helps increase water in stool for easier bowel movements
  • Promotes regularity
  • Prevents hemorrhoids
  • Helps control blood sugar and cholesterol”

Hmmm, this is very similar to reasons why everyone – CKD or not – should pay attention to fiber. But, take a look at this list of high fiber foods from the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948:

Fruits                                              Serving size              

Raspberries 1 cup 8.0
Pear 1 medium 5.5
Apple, with skin 1 medium 4.5
Banana 1 medium 3.0
Orange 1 medium 3.0
Strawberries 1 cup 3.0

 

Vegetables Serving size Total fiber (grams)*
Green peas, boiled 1 cup 9.0
Broccoli, boiled 1 cup chopped 5.0
Turnip greens, boiled 1 cup 5.0
Brussels sprouts, boiled 1 cup 4.0
Potato, with skin, baked 1 medium 4.0
Sweet corn, boiled 1 cup 3.5
Cauliflower, raw 1 cup chopped 2.0
Carrot, raw 1 medium 1.5

 

Grains Serving size Total fiber (grams)*
Spaghetti, whole-wheat, cooked 1 cup 6.0
Barley, pearled, cooked 1 cup 6.0
Bran flakes 3/4 cup 5.5
Quinoa, cooked 1 cup 5.0
Oat bran muffin 1 medium 5.0
Oatmeal, instant, cooked 1 cup 5.0
Popcorn, air-popped 3 cups 3.5
Brown rice, cooked 1 cup 3.5
Bread, whole-wheat 1 slice 2.0
Bread, rye 1 slice 2.0

 

Legumes, nuts and seeds Serving size Total fiber (grams)*
Split peas, boiled 1 cup 16.0
Lentils, boiled 1 cup 15.5
Black beans, boiled 1 cup 15.0
Baked beans, canned 1 cup 10.0
Chia seeds 1 ounce 10.0
Almonds 1 ounce (23 nuts) 3.5
Pistachios 1 ounce (49 nuts) 3.0
Sunflower kernels 1 ounce 3.0

*Rounded to nearest 0.5 gram.

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Legacy Release

Looks delicious, doesn’t it. So what’s the problem? Well, CKD patients are restricted in their diets… and even the permissible foods are restricted as far as amounts we can eat. It all depends upon our most current lab results. Do we need less potassium? Then we need to eat even less potassium rich food. The same is true for all the electrolytes. That means our diets may not contain enough fiber.

CKD is an inflammatory disease. Fiber can lower inflammation. So what’s a CKD patient to do?

My reader was recommended supplements by her doctor. One was Solfi Green, something new to me.

I went to MIMS in the Philippines (while a new site to me, they self-describe as “Asia’s one-stop resource for medical news, clinical reference and education”)  at https://www.mims.com/philippines/drug/info/solfi%20green?type=full  for the ingredients and found this:

Ingredients: Fructose, Mixed Fruit Powder, Mixed Vegetable Powder, Soluble Dietary Fiber, Physllium (sic) Husk, Oat Fiber, Wheat Fiber, Citric Acid, Wheat Grass, Alfalfa, Rooibos Extract, Contains Permitted Food Conditioner.”

Wait a minute, Psyllium Husk? I clearly remember writing that this can cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. We need to decrease, not increase inflammation as CKD patients. I would steer clear of this.

Would my reader need to steer clear if she were a dialysis or transplant patient? Drugs.com at https://www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/psyllium.html  doesn’t seem to think any specific dosage reduction is necessary, but they also don’t mention it can cause inflammation or that it is high in potassium. Dialysis patients, beware. If you’re a transplant, you simply need to watch your labs as you would anyway. Just keep in mind psyllium husk can be both an inflammatory and laxative.

Another supplement suggested to my reader is C-lium fiber. I went directly to their website at http://c-liumfibre.com/faq/index.html#Q15  and found this warning in their FAQ:

“If you have rectal bleeding, history of intestinal blockage, difficulty swallowing, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, hypertension, kidney disease, or if you are on a low-sugar or low-sodium diet, contact your doctor before taking C-Lium Fibre.”

Obviously, my reader has gone to her doctor since these two supplements were prescribed by her doctor. I have to make a confession here. When something is prescribed for me, I research it. If I don’t like what I find, I speak with my doctor. If she can explain in more detail or tell me something that is not in my research which I should be aware of to make an informed decision and it’s all positive, I go with the prescription. If not, well….

Of course, you have to make your own decision, just as I do. Here’s hoping this has helped my reader.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Kidney Anxiety

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

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

“Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is from SlowItDownCKD 2014 and may be helpful here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’ll be Glowing!

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

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

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

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

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

“TECHNIQUE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“HIDA scan:

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

Study Result Impression:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few announcements, if you please:

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Double Whammy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antibiotic – Medication used to treat infection.

Chronic – Long term, the opposite of acute.

GFR  – Glomerular filtration rate [if there is a lower case “e” before the term, it means estimated glomerular filtration rate] which determines both the stage of kidney disease and how well
the kidneys are functioning.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click here to Register!

 

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

United States: +1 (562) 247-8422

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

Audio PIN: Shown after joining the webinar

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

And Yet Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

At the Heart of the Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OR

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Take Good Care of Yourself, Caretakers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve.

Until next year,

Keep living your life!

A Creatinine Christmas Present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Different Kind of Fatigue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Blood Pressure

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

Prednisone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Say That Again

I have been uttering that phrase for years, maybe even a decade. Each time I went for a hearing test, I was told I was getting there, but I didn’t need hearing aids yet. This year it changed. I’ll bet it’s because I have CKD.

This is from SlowItDownCKD  2011:

“Research shows that hearing loss is common in people with moderate Chronic Kidney Disease. As published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases and highlighted on the National Kidney Foundation web site, a team of Australian researchers found that older adults with moderate Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) have a higher prevalence of hearing loss than those of the same age without CKD.”

How moderate CKD and hearing are connected is another matter, one that apparently isn’t as well documented. Here’s what I found on Timpanogos Hearing and Balance’s website at https://utahhearingaids.com/hearing-loss-likely-individuals-chronic-kidney-disease/ and the other sites I searched. This comes from the same Universtiy of Sydney study I cited in my 2011 blog.  A study that was completed in 2010… eight years ago.

“The link between hearing loss and CKD can be explained by structural and functional similarities between tissues in the inner ear and in the kidney. Additionally, toxins that accumulate in kidney failure can damage nerves, including those in the inner ear. Another reason for this connection is that kidney disease and hearing loss share common risk factors, including diabetes, high blood pressure and advanced age.”

Wait a minute. I wrote about this in SlowItDownCKD 2014, too:

“Suddenly it became clear. If toxins are – well – toxic to our bodies, that includes our ears. My old friend The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us the word toxic is derived directly from late Latin toxicus, which means ‘poisoned.’

Now I got it. Moderate CKD could be poisoning our bodies with a buildup of toxins. Our ears and the nerves in them are part of our body. Damaged nerves may cause hearing loss. I’d just never thought of it that way before. Sometimes all it takes is that one last piece of the puzzle to fall in place.

Hmmm. High blood pressure is the second most common leading cause of CKD and it can also lead to hearing loss. Let’s take a look at that.

According to WebMD

‘Certain illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, put ears at risk by interfering with the ears’ blood supply.’

I went right to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to figure out how since it includes a diagram from The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health that demonstrates how high blood pressure is caused… and if you read on, you’ll read about the problems high blood pressure causes….and this sentence:

‘Humans have 10 pints of blood that are pumped by the heart through the arteries to all the other parts of the bodies.’

That would include the ears. Moderate CKD might mean that blood is tainted by the toxins our compromised kidneys could not rid us of.”

I was frustrated at not finding any more recent research, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get… like now.

I thought of an online hearing test I’d heard (Ouch! Poor word choice there.) about and decided to give it a try since it asked questions rather than having you listen to sounds as you would in an audiologist’s office. Here are my results from the  Better Hearing Institute at http://www.betterhearing.org/check-your-hearing

“SUMMARY

 Your hearing loss would be described as: Mild Hearing Loss. A hearing test may be necessary to monitor your hearing loss.

DETAIL REPORT

 Your Check Score: You scored 21 out of a possible 60 points. The remainder of this report will tell you what your score means.

Your Check Norm: Your score of 21 is at the 19 percentile of people with hearing loss in the United States, where low percentages mean lower hearing losses and high percentages mean more serious hearing losses compared to other people with hearing loss….

Subjective Hearing Loss Description: Based on the responses of more than 10,000 people with hearing loss and their family members, they would describe your hearing loss as: Mild Hearing Loss.

What Your Hearing Loss Means for Your Quality of Life: Research has shown that the higher your predicted hearing loss, the more likely the following quality-of-life factors may be negatively affected:

  • irritability, negativism and anger
  • fatigue, tension, stress and depression
  • avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
  • social rejection and loneliness
  • reduced alertness and increased risk of personal safety
  • impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks
  • reduced job performance and earning power
  • diminished psychological and overall health

What should you do next? Based on your score, we recommend the following: A hearing test may be necessary to monitor your hearing loss. Now hearing loss is situational, and the next step you take is dependent on your need to hear in various listening situations. Some people can live with mild hearing losses. Others, such as teachers and therapists whose auditory skills are very important for their everyday work, require corrective technology — such as hearing aids — even when their hearing loss is at mild levels. It becomes important for them to do something about their hearing loss so they can function adequately in their work environment….

References:

To review the study this report is based on visit:
http://www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/bhi-archives/eguides/validity-and-reliability-bhi-quick-hearing-check

To review research on hearing loss and quality of life visit:
www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/counseling-articles-tips/impact-treated-hearing-loss-quality-life as well as the following publication conducted by the National Council on the Aging (NCOA):
Hearing Aids and Quality of Life

My audiologist will be introducing me to hearing aids in the new year. I thought I had considered all the ramifications of CKD. And, frankly, I thought I understood what was happening to my kidneys. It looks like I did understand the loss of some kidney function… just not how that would affect the rest of my body.

I don’t know whether to break out the duct tape or the crazy glue to keep this aging body in one piece. Are you laughing? Good, because I wanted to have this Chanukah blog leave you in a good mood. I know, I’ll break out the dreidles in your honor. Happy Chanukah!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Kidney Transplant: Cure or Treatment? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Shining a Light on 1in9 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Yet Another One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

an MRI of the brain

a CT scan of the head

an electrocardiogram

an echocardiogram

a kidney ultrasound

an eye exam

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

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

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

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

That is plenty to absorb for one day.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Dead People

Hmmm, maybe that title should read “Famous People Who Died from Kidney Disease.” Let’s go back a bit to see what I’m talking about. By now you know my youngest married on the 6th of this month. Thank you to everyone who sent their best wishes. She and her husband did a wonderful job of creating the wedding they wanted, just as the new Mr. & Mrs. Nielson are doing a terrific job of creating the life they want together.

Of course, her sister came out from New York to join the festivities. As usual, she stayed with Bear and me. That gave us plenty of time to gab between the pre-wedding potluck at my house and all the preparations for the wedding. At one point, I casually mentioned to her that Jean Harlow died of kidney disease. That fascinated Nima for some reason. As I explained the how and why, she asked me why I hadn’t yet written a blog about famous people who died from kidney disease.

At first, I thought it a bit macabre but then I rethought that. My new thinking ran along the line of, “What a perfect blog for Halloween week.” By the way, that’s my brother’s birthday and there is nothing spooky about him. Oh, our preconceptions.

Back to Jean Harlow. For those of you who don’t know, she was not only an American film actress during the 1930s, but a sex symbol as well.

This is from the official Jean Harlow website at https://www.jeanharlow.com/about/biography/

“While filming Saratoga in 1937, Jean was hospitalized with uremic poisoning and kidney failure, a result of the scarlet fever she had suffered during childhood. In the days before dialysis and kidney transplants, nothing could be done and Jean died on June 7, 1937.”

A couple of reminders:

Uremic poisoning is what we now call uremia. This type of poisoning happens when the kidneys can’t filter your blood.

Kidney failure means your kidneys don’t work anymore. One of their jobs is to filter urea from your blood so that it doesn’t build up resulting in uremia.

As for the scarlet fever, “In general, appropriately diagnosed and treated scarlet fever results in few if any long-term effects. However, if complications develop for whatever reason, problems that include kidney damage, hepatitis, vasculitis, septicemia, congestive heart failure, and even death may occur.“ (Courtesy of MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/scarlet_fever_scarlatina/article.htm)

Dialysis was invented in 1943 by Dr. Willem Kolff. It wasn’t until the 1950s before it was perfected, but for Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) only. To make matters worse, few machines were available. Dr. Belding Scribner then developed a shunt to make dialysis effective for End Stage Renal Disease patients. In other words, not only those with short term kidney injuries, but also those whose kidneys were shutting down permanently. It wasn’t until 1962 that he opened the first outpatient dialysis unit. Later on, he developed the portable dialysis machines.

Keep those years in mind. Keep in mind also that there was no dialysis or transplantation when these people died of kidney disease.

You may remember the blog I wrote about the Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He died of kidney failure back in 1792… way before dialysis or transplantation.

Transplantation? You’re right; I haven’t defined it yet. You cannot live without a functioning kidney unless you are on dialysis OR a new kidney – either from a cadaver or a life donor – is placed in your body. It is not a cure for kidney failure, but a treatment. Transplantees take anti-rejection medications for the rest of their lives.

Have you heard of Sarah Bernhardt? She was a French stage actress who died of kidney disease in 1923. She’d also been a silent screen actress, but reportedly didn’t care for film acting. Notice the year.

Emily Dickinson, the celebrated American poet died of Bright’s disease in 1886. (She was still alive during Portal of Time. I wonder if Jesse read her work?) Oh, you forgot what Bright’s disease is? No problem. New-Medical Net at https://www.news-medical.net/health/Brights-Disease-Kidney-Disease.aspx tells us it is “… a historical term that is not currently in use. It referred to a group of kidney diseases – in modern medicine, the condition is described as acute or chronic nephritis.”

It would make sense to define nephritis now. The suffix “itis” means inflammation of and “neph” refers to the kidneys. So, nephritis is an inflammation of the kidneys and can be due to a number of causes.

Let’s not forget the great Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. He moved to London at 20 years old and became a critic and political activist as well. You’ve heard of the play ‘My Fair Lady’? It was based on his ‘Pygmalion’. He died of kidney disease just before he might have been saved… in 1950.

I think the one who surprised me the most was Buffalo Bill Cody. He was not just the leader of his wild West show, but also a bison hunter, scout (as in finding the way for wagon trains), gold rush participant, possibly a Pony Express rider, and actor. He died in 1917 of kidney failure.

Other famous people who have died of kidney disease include Art Tatum, Color Porter, Douglas MacArthur, Alex Karras, Manute Bol, Ernest Borgnine, Don DeLuise, Art Buchwald, Norman Mailer, Sandra Dee, Barry White, Erma Bombeck, Marlene Dietrich, and Laurence Olivier.

This blog is not meant to scare the wits out of you. Well, maybe it is in a way. Famous people from all walks of life – athletes, writers, actors, musicians, singers, military members, and others – have died of kidney disease. Many before the invention of dialysis and transplantation. Some of kidney disease in combination of other diseases. And some because they didn’t know they had kidney disease.

My point? If you belong to any of the high risk groups for kidney disease, get yourself tested. We’re talking simple blood and urine tests here. The high risk groups are “diabetes, hypertension and a family history of kidney disease. African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans and Seniors.” Thank you to the National Kidney Center at http://www.nationalkidneycenter.org/chronic-kidney-disease/risk-factors/ for this list.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Where Did This All Come From?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kidney Disease, Dialysis, and Transplant

The Transplant Community Outreach

P2P

Kidney Disease Ideas and Diets1

People on Dialysis

Chronic Kidney Disease in India

Friends Sharing Positive Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness

CKD (Kidney Failure) Support Group International

Kidney Warriors Foundation

Kidney Disease is not a Joke

Kidney Disease Diet Ideas and Help

Sharing your Kidney Journey

Mani Trust

Dialysis & Kidney Disease

Kidneys and Vets

Women’s Renal Failure

I Hate Dialysis

Mark’s Private Kidney Disease Group

UK Kidney Support

Wrap Up Warm for Kidney Disease

Stage 3 ‘n 4 Kidneybeaners Gathering Place

 

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

The Reluctant Donor

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

author of The Reluctant Donor

Freelance writer for The Charlotte Observer

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

Living Donor Council of The National Kidney Foundation (NKF)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

How Does That Work Again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food and Drug Administration

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

                                                                                                                                                      Agency Details

Acronym: FDA

Website: Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Contact: Contact the Food and Drug Administration

 Report a Problem with a Product

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

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

Forms: Food and Drug Administration Forms

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Antidote Match™

Matching patients to trials in a completely new way
Antidote Match is the world’s smartest clinical trial matching tool, allowing patients to match to trials just by answering a few questions about their health.

Putting technology to work
We have taken on the massive job of structuring all publicly available clinical trial eligibility criteria so that it is machine-readable and searchable.

This means that for the first time, through a machine-learning algorithm that dynamically selects questions, patients can answer just a few questions to search through thousands of trials within a given therapeutic area in seconds and find one that’s right for them.

Patients receive trial information that is specific to their condition with clear contact information to get in touch with researchers.

Reaching patients where they are
Even the smartest search tool is only as good as the number of people who use it, so we’ve made our search tool available free of charge to patient communities, advocacy groups, and health portals. We’re proud to power clinical trial search on more than a hundred of these sites, reaching millions of patients per month where they are already looking for health information.

Translating scientific jargon
Our platform pulls information on all the trials listed on clinicaltrials.gov and presents it into a simple, patient-friendly design.

You (Gail here: this point is addressed to the ones conducting the clinical trial) then have the option to augment that content through our free tool, Antidote Bridge™, to include the details that are most important to patients – things like number of overnights, compensation, and procedures used. This additional information helps close the information gap between patients and researchers, which ultimately yields greater engagement with patients.

Here’s how Antidote Match works
1. Visit search engine → Patients visit either our website or one of the sites that host our search.
2. Enter condition → They enter the condition in which they’re interested, and begin answering the questions as they appear
3. Answer questions → As more questions are answered, the number of clinical trial matches reduces
4. Get in touch: When they’re ready, patients review their matches and can get in touch with the researchers running each study directly through our tool

Try it from the blog roll. I did. I was going to include my results, but realized they wouldn’t be helpful since my address, age, sex, diseases, and conditions may be different from everyone else’s. One caveat: search for Chronic Renal Insufficiency or Chronic Renal Failure (whichever applies to you) rather than Chronic Kidney Disease.”

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

For the Younger Women

You’d think that leaves me out, but you’d be wrong. I’m writing for pre-menopausal women…and for anyone who wants to know what menstrual cycles have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease. I’m one of those who wants to know.

I was already in my sixties when I was diagnosed with CKD, but I have many woman readers who have not yet reached that rite of passage known as menopause. Does their menses have any effect on their CKD, I wondered? Or, conversely, does their CKD have any effect on their menses?

Back to the beginning for those who have just plain forgotten what the menses is and why women experience it. Thank you to the Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/menses for starting us off today. Menses is:

“the periodic discharge from the vagina of blood and tissues from a non-pregnant uterus; the culmination of the menstrual cycle. Menstruation occurs every 28 days or so between puberty and menopause, except during pregnancy, and the flow lasts about 5 days, the times varying from woman to woman.”

I clearly remember the days of anxiously awaiting my period only to find I had miscalculated its start. Commence the washing-out-the-underwear-nightly-during-my-period era which lasted decades. It was messy, but apparently menstruation was necessary. Why? you ask.

Back to Wikipedia. By the way, when I was teaching research writing in college, I always found this a good source to start researching from despite the fact that anyone can edit it. This is the explanation I was looking for. I found it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cycle.

“The menstrual cycle is the regular natural change that occurs in the female reproductive system (specifically the uterus and ovaries) that makes pregnancy possible. The cycle is required for the production of oocytes [Me here: this means an immature egg] and for the preparation of the uterus for pregnancy….”

As someone who had always planned to be a mother, you can see why I felt this was a necessary – albeit messy – function of my body. I have a biological grandchild and another being planned. Thank you, menstruation.

But what if I had developed CKD when I was premenopausal? Would things have been different for me? DaVita at https://www.davita.com/education/kidney-disease/risk-factors/womens-health-risks-and-chronic-kidney-disease-ckd explains some of what I might have had to deal with.

“When a woman has chronic kidney disease her periods tend to be irregular. Once she begins dialysis her periods may even stop altogether. As kidney function drops below 20 percent of normal, a woman is less likely to conceive because dialysis doesn’t perform all of the tasks of the kidneys. The body retains a higher level of waste products than it would with a normal kidney, which can prevent egg production and affect menstruation.

Erythropoietin treatments will cause about 50 percent of woman on dialysis to get their periods again. This is attributed to the improved hormone levels and the treatment of anemia. Therefore, erythropoietin treatments can increase a woman’s fertility, so birth control should be used if a woman is sexually active and does not want to become pregnant.”

Okay, but I’m not on dialysis and my GFR hovers in the 50-55% range. I see from the quote above that my periods might have become irregular. I also noted that a ‘higher level of waste products is being retained.” (Why does that give me the creeps?)

Let’s go back to those waste products. Remember what they are? Shodor, a site for undergraduate students, at https://www.shodor.org/master/biomed/physio/dialysis/kidney.htm was helpful here:

“The kidneys are the filtering devices of blood. The kidneys remove waste products from metabolism such as urea, uric acid, and creatinine by producing and secreting urine. Urine may also contain sulfate and phenol waste and excess sodium, potassium, and chloride ions. The kidneys help maintain homeostasis by regulating the concentration and volume of body fluids. For example, the amount of H+ and HCO3  secreted by the kidneys controls the body’s pH.”

Whoa! I wouldn’t want even more of these substances in my body. Not only would they make the CKD worse, but also its effects on my body. According to Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/172179.php, these effects include:

  • anemia
  • blood in urine
  • dark urine
  • decreased mental alertness
  • decreased urine output
  • edema – swollen feet, hands, and ankles (face if edema is severe)
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • insomnia
  • itchy skin, can become persistent
  • loss of appetite
  • male inability to get or maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • more frequent urination, especially at night
  • muscle cramps
  • muscle twitches
  • nausea
  • pain on the side or mid to lower back
  • panting (shortness of breath)
  • protein in urine
  • sudden change in bodyweight
  • unexplained headaches

Is there anything else I should know?

The Huffington Post at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-spry-md-facp/women-with-chronic-kidney_b_10163148.html let Dr. Leslie Spry, Spokesman for the National Kidney Foundation, answer this one and I will, too.

“Women with CKD have been shown to commonly experience menstrual irregularities. This can include excessive bleeding, missed periods, and early onset of menopause. In studies of patients with CKD, women enter menopause from 3 to 5 years earlier than patients without CKD. Treatment can be very challenging. Studies of estrogen replacement therapy have shown an increased risk of heart disease and blood clotting disorders. Kidney transplantation will usually correct these abnormalities.”

Now I wonder if I’d had CKD even earlier than when I’d caught it on a lab report a decade ago. Excessive bleeding? Check. Early menopause? Check. Hmmm.

But wait. There’s some good news in here, too.

“’Thus, recurring changes of sex hormone levels, as brought about by the natural menstrual cycle, might be involved in periodic tissue remodeling not only in reproductive organs, but to a certain extent in the kidneys as well,’ she added.

Lechner [Me here: She’s the study author – Dr. Judith Lechner, of the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria] hypothesizes that estrogen might help to replace damaged cells. During cycle phases of high estrogen exposure, kidney cells might be induced to grow, she explained, ‘while at time points of decreasing estrogen levels damaged or simply older cells might be discarded into the urine.’”

You can read more about this small study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in Medical Daily at https://www.medicaldaily.com/sex-differences-menstrual-cycle-kidney-failure-384251.

Now I know… and so do you. Younger women, your CKD menstrual future may not be as dismal as you’d thought.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Backed Up

Granted this is weird, but I have wondered for quite a while what – if anything – constipation has to do with Chronic Kidney Disease. Maybe my memory is faulty (Hello, brain fog, my old friend), but I don’t remember having this problem before CKD entered my life… or did I?

In my attempt to find out if there is a connection, I hit pay dirt on my first search.

“Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are more likely to develop in individuals with constipation than in those with normal bowel movements, according to a new study published online in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

More severe constipation, defined as using more than one laxative, was associated with increasing risks of CKD and its progression.”

You can read the entire Renal and Urology News article at https://www.renalandurologynews.com/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/constipation-associated-with-ckd-esrd-risk/article/572659/.

Wait a minute. This is not quite as clear as I’d like it to be. For example, what exactly is constipation? The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation was of help here:

“Constipation is a condition in which you may have fewer than three bowel movements a week; stools that are hard, dry, or lumpy; stools that are difficult or painful to pass; or a feeling that not all stool has passed. You usually can take steps to prevent or relieve constipation.”

Well then, what’s severe constipation? A new site for me, HealthCCM at https://health.ccm.net/faq/267-acute-constipation defines severe or acute constipation as,

“Acute constipation is usually defined by a slowing of intestinal transit generating a decrease in bowel movements and the appearance of dehydration. The person will have difficulty defecating or may not be able to at all.”

This sounds downright painful, so let’s go back to my original query about how constipation and CKD relate to each other.

But first I want to share this very clear explanation of how constipation happens from Everyday Health at https://www.everydayhealth.com/constipation/guide/.

“The GI tract, which consists of a series of hollow organs stretching from your mouth to your anus, is responsible for digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste removal.

In your lower GI tract, your large intestine, or bowel — which includes your colon and rectum — absorbs water from your digested food, changing it from a liquid to a solid (stool).

Constipation occurs when digested food spends too much time in your colon.

Your colon absorbs too much water, making your stool hard and dry — and difficult for your rectal muscles to push out of your body.”

Keep in mind that diabetes is the number one cause of CKD as you read this. According to the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354253

“Hormones help balance fluids in your body. Diseases and conditions that upset the balance of hormones may lead to constipation, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Overactive parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism)
  • Pregnancy
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)”

Many of the sites I perused suggested drinking more water to avoid or correct constipation. But we’re CKD patients; our fluid intake (Well, mine, anyway) is restricted. I’m already drinking my maximum of 64 ounces a day. In the words of Laurel and Hardy’s Hardy, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!” It’s possible constipation contributed to my developing CKD and drinking more may help, but with CKD you’re limited to how much you can drink.

Another suggestion I ran into on many sites was increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Great, just great. I’m already at my maximum of three different fruits and three different vegetables – each of different serving sizes, mind you – daily.

Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constipation#Medications has a great deal of information about constipation. Remember though that anyone can edit any Wikipedia article at any time. Be that as it may, this sentence leaped out at me:

“Metabolic and endocrine problems which may lead to constipation include: hypercalcemiahypothyroidismhyperparathyroidismporphyriachronic kidney diseasepan-hypopituitarismdiabetes mellitus, and cystic fibrosis….”

Thank you, MedicineNet for reminding us that iron can cause constipation. How many of us (meaning CKD patients) are on iron tablets due to the anemia that CKD may cause? I realize some patients are even taking injections of synthetic iron to help with red blood production, something the kidneys are charged with and slow down on when they are in decline.

Apparently, another gift of aging can be constipation since your metabolic system slows down. That’s also what makes it so hard to lose weight once you reach a certain weight. I’m getting a lot of information here, but I’m still not clear as to how one may cause the other. Let’s search some more.

I think I just hit something. We already know that diabetes is the number one cause of CKD. Did you remember that high blood pressure is the second most usual cause of CKD? Take a look at this from Health at https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20452199,00.html#inflammatory-bowel-disease-3:

“Constipation can be a side effect of some common drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as calcium channel blockers and diuretics.

Diuretics, for instance, lower blood pressure by increasing urine output, which flushes water from your system. However, water is needed to keep stools soft and get them out of the body.”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

It gets even better. The American Association of Kidney Patients at https://aakp.org/dialysis/relieving-constipation/ not only offered more clarification, but offered a list of high fiber foods without going over most of our potassium and phosphorous limits. Fiber intake is considered another way to both avoid and help with constipation.

“Adults need 20-35 grams of fiber daily. However, for dialysis patients who have to limit their fluid intake, this may be too much since it is thought increased dietary fiber may require an increased fluid intake. Also, all patients are different so the amount of fiber needed to relieve constipation varies from person to person.

High Fiber Foods

Bran muffin                 ½ muffin

Brown rice (cooked)   ½ cup

Broccoli*                    ½ cup

Peach                          1 medium

Prunes*                       3

Prunes*                       3

Spaghetti (cooked)      ½ cup

Turnips*                      ¾ cup

(Each serving contains about 150mg potassium, 20-90mg phosphorus and 1 – 5.4 grams of fiber.) (*Items contains 2 or more grams of fiber per serving.)”

I’ve got the connection between constipation and CKD now; do you?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Rising to the Challenge

Remember Loyal Reader from a few years ago? He and I are still in touch and toss around ideas here and there. He sent me an article about Chronic Kidney Disease patients being at higher risk for Hepatitis C along with the comment, “Hmmm, I wonder why?” I know a challenge when I see one, so let’s find out.

Back to basics: what is Hepatitis C anyway? As I mentioned in SlowItDownCKD 2013, Hepatitis is from the … Greek word root, hepa, which means liver.” Interesting, but not enough information for our purposes.

According to our old friend the MayoClinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-c/symptoms-causes/syc-20354278,

“Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) spreads through contaminated blood.”

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/sites/default/files/HepC_Infographic.pdf explained why hepatitis C is associated with Chronic Kidney Disease:

“Hepatitis C infection is strongly associated with kidney disease. Hepatitis C is more common in people with kidney disease than the general population. Hepatitis C can be a cause of kidney disease, or make existing kidney disease worse. People receiving a kidney transplant, or donating a kidney, are routinely tested for hepatitis C.

Hemodialysis and Hepatitis C People receiving long-term hemodialysis have a risk of getting hepatitis C through transmission in the dialysis clinic. The risk is small because of strict standard health precautions used in dialysis units today. However, some cases of hepatitis C being spread between patients have been reported.”

By the way, NKF uses infographs which are easy to understand.

In SlowItDownCKD 2017, I explained what KDIGO is. We’re going to need that explanation in just a moment.

“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.”

Here’s where KDIGO comes in. Way back in 2008, the following was published in the April issue of the official journal of the International Society of Nephrology, Kidney International, which supports the KDIGO:

“‘HCV infection is associated with an increased prevalence of reduced kidney function, albuminuria, and an increased risk of developing end stage renal disease,’ says Dr. Jaber, who is also vice chair for clinical affairs, Department of Medicine at Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, ‘HCV infection is also associated with increased mortality among patients undergoing maintenance hemodialysis and among kidney transplant recipients.'”

But, in 2018, KDIGO updated their recommendations: “We recommend screening all patients for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection at the time of initial evaluation of chronic kidney disease (CKD).”

Hmmm, as Loyal Reader would say, I wonder if this has something to do with the albuminuria Dr. Jaber mentioned in 2008.

Let’s see what we can find out. I found this in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“Albumin is a protein.  It will show up as microalbumin in your urine test.  It may also show up as proteinuria since albumin is a protein.”

We can figure out that microalbumin is extremely small particles of albumin, but what about proteinuria? I went back, back, back to my first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for the definition:

“Protein in the urine, not a normal state of being.”

Does anyone else feel like we’re going down the rabbit hole here? Of course it’s not normal! It means we have CKD. Now, if there’s any amount   of protein in our urine… and there may be since we do have Chronic Kidney Disease… it looks like Hepatitis C Virus can raise that amount and lower our GFR. Not good, not good at all.

So what do we do about it? WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/digestive-diseases-hepatitis-c#2 held the least medicalese answer about the drugs that all the sites I viewed saw as the best treatment plan:

“Your treatment will depend on many things including what type of hepatitis C virus you have. In the U.S., the most common type is genotype 1, followed by genotypes 2 and 3. Genotypes 4, 5, and 6 are very rare in the U.S. Your doctor will help you figure out what’s right for you, based on your medical needs and insurance coverage. “

I know. I had the same question. What is a genotype? Hello, Dictionary.com, my old friend, at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/genotype.

“the genetic makeup of an organism or group of organisms with reference to a single trait, set of traits, or an entire complex of traits.”

Well, that makes sense. Just one more thing, though. Is it possible to know we have Hepatitis C before we’re diagnosed with CKD – at which time we should be tested for HCV – or even if we don’t have CKD? That is a loaded question. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), fully 80% of those with acute or short term HCV won’t have any symbols. The other 20% may experience mild symptoms you might experience with any illness: fever, joint pain, being tired and/or nauseous, and the like. However with chronic or long term HCV, you might experience dark urine and/or jaundice of the skin and eyeballs. To complicate matters even more, there are three different kinds of hepatitis. You can read much more about hepatitis at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/cfaq.htm

There’s one thing that I haven’t yet made clear. Your body rids itself of wastes and excess fluids through either the kidneys or the liver. If you have CKD, your kidneys are already not functioning as well as they should which means you’re not getting rid of either wastes or excess fluids efficiently. Guess what. One of the functions of the liver is to also clean your blood. Having two organs that are not effectively cleansing your blood is not a position you want to be in… ever.

This was a difficult blog to write. There were so many little pieces to link together. But thanks for the challenge, Loyal Reader, I learned a lot.

Switching topics now. Since the weather has been,uh, difficult lately (to say the least), I thought this might be helpful.  Use this link rather than clicking below: https://ecs.page.link/SVpB 

Until next week,

 

Keep living your life!

Dialysis is Now Old Enough to Have Its Own Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parts of a Kidney Dialysis Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before I go, The American Kidney Fund asked me to let you know about two webinars this month, both on topics close to my heart… I mean my kidneys. They are Slowing down kidney disease on September 20th and Tips for talking with your doctor on Sept. 25th. Why not mark these on your calendar now while you’re thinking of it?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Dynamic Duo 

Sorry Batman, not yours. I’m writing about Chronic Kidney Disease and diabetes. For a decade, I’ve been told diabetes is the number one cause of CKD. Got it… and (as you know) CKD. Then I learned that CKD can cause diabetes. Ummm, okay, I guess that sort of makes sense. And then, oh my, I developed diabetes. But how? I’d never questioned how that worked before, but I certainly did now.

Let’s go back to the beginning here. First of all, what is diabetes? I included this information in SlowItDownCKD 2013:

“According to MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/diabetes:

‘Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience polyuria (frequent urination), they will become increasingly thirsty (polydipsia) and hungry (polyphagia).’”

Guilty on all three counts as far as symptoms. It gets worse. I uncovered this fact in SlowItDownCKD 2014:

“According to Diabetes.co.uk at https://www.diabetes.co.uk/how-does-diabetes-affect-the-body.html,

‘The kidneys are another organ that is at particular risk of damage as a result of diabetes and the risk is again increased by poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.’”

This is getting more and more complicated. But again, how is diabetes damaging my kidneys?

It seemed to me that I had just posted a fact about this on SlowItDownCKD’s Facebook page, so I checked. Yep, I did on September 7th.

“Did you know that high glucose levels can make your red blood cells stiffen? This hinders your blood circulation.”

And this affects the kidneys how? Let’s think about this a minute. Way back when I wrote What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I included this information:

“A renal artery carries the blood, waste and water to the kidneys while a renal vein carries the filtered and sieved waste from the kidneys.”

The American Society of Hematology at http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Basics/ tells us there are four parts of the blood:

  1. Red blood cells
  2. White blood cells
  3. Plasma
  4. Platelets

Hmmm, so red blood cells compose one quarter of your blood and high glucose can make them stiffen. To me, that means a quarter of your blood will be working against you.  Not what we need… especially when we’re already dealing with Chronic Kidney Disease.

Back to my original question (again): How do high glucose levels affect the kidneys?

Thank you to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/Diabetes-and-Kidney-Disease-Stages1-4 for exactly the answer I was looking for:

  • Blood vessels inside your kidneys. The filtering units of the kidney are filled with tiny blood vessels. Over time, high sugar levels in the blood can cause these vessels to become narrow and clogged. Without enough blood, the kidneys become damaged and albumin (a type of protein) passes through these filters and ends up in the urine where it should not be.
  • Nerves in your body. Diabetes can also cause damage to the nerves in your body. Nerves carry messages between your brain and all other parts of your body, including your bladder. They let your brain know when your bladder is full. But if the nerves of the bladder are damaged, you may not be able to feel when your bladder is full. The pressure from a full bladder can damage your kidneys.
  • Urinary tract. If urine stays in your bladder for a long time, you may get a urinary tract infection. This is because of bacteria. Bacteria are tiny organisms like germs that can cause disease. They grow rapidly in urine with a high sugar level. Most often these infections affect the bladder, but they can sometimes spread to the kidneys.

I would say I’m heart… uh, kidney…broken about this development, but the truth is I’m not. I don’t like it; I don’t want it, but I can do something about it. I’d already cut out complex carbs and sugar laden foods in an abortive attempt to lose weight for my health. Well, maybe my daughter’s wedding on October 6th had something to do with that decision, too.

The point is, I’ve started. I’m aware of the carbohydrates in food and I’m learning how to control my intake of them… just as I’m aware that I have to break in the shoes for the wedding. Something new has to be gotten used to. I’ve had a head start.

Why the emphasis on carbs, you ask. I turned to my old favorite The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity/carbohydrate-counting  for help:

“When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks down the sugars and starches into glucose. Glucose is one of the simplest forms of sugar. Glucose then enters your bloodstream from your digestive tract and raises your blood glucose levels. The hormone insulin, which comes from the pancreas or from insulin shots, helps cells throughout your body absorb glucose and use it for energy. Once glucose moves out of the blood into cells, your blood glucose levels go back down.”

If you’ve got diabetes, your body either is not producing enough insulin or not interacting well with the insulin it is producing. Measuring my blood sugar levels when I awaken in the morning has shown me that when I’m sleeping – when I cannot help my blood sugar levels come down by eating protein or exercising, even in my dreams – is when I have the highest blood sugar. During the day I can keep it under control.

And that’s where my medication comes in. The usual – Metformin – can cause nausea, which I deal with more often than not, so that was out. However, a new medication on the market just might do the trick. It’s only been a few days, but I do notice my blood sugar upon waking is getting lower each day. This medication is not a panacea. I still have to be careful with my food, exercise daily, and sometimes counteract a high carb food with a protein. I’m not there yet, but I’m learning.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

So That’s How It’s Done

Readers have asked me repeatedly how foundations to raise awareness of kidney disease are started. You know my story: I developed Chronic Kidney Disease, didn’t understand what my nephrologist was saying so researched the disease, then decided to share my research with others who needs plain talk or reader friendly explanations. Hello, books, the blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and my website. But I’m not a foundation; I’m just me doing what I can.

Back to the original question: How do foundations begin? Let’s keep in mind that we’re not talking about the biggies like the National Kidney Foundation here.

Well, remember the AAKP Conference back in June that I keep referring to? You meet a lot of people there. One fellow I met is Scott Burton who started his own kidney awareness foundation. I put the question to him. Ready? Here’s his answer.

How do you sum up 36 years of a constant back and forth struggle? Of a lifetime searching for a reason as hope fades a little more each day? How do you not get sick on this roller coaster called life? Simple answer, you don’t have a choice, so you push forward and try to find some positive in the negative, some hope in the hopeless and, ultimately, just try to live each day a little better than the last and make a positive impact. See, this isn’t a story with a fairytale happy ending, but most stories worth reading (or watching), don’t have fairytale endings; rather, they are stories that are relatable and sometimes left open ended.

This isn’t a guest blog about me or my battle, but rather one introducing the positive that has come from the negatives. That positive comes in the form of The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation which pulls from my background in marketing and video production. It just made sense to try to raise awareness and shed some light on kidney disease in the best way I know how: with real people telling real stories about real experiences in a casual and comfortable format.

That began the journey to today, a journey that began on March 3rd, 2016, when The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation was officially launched. The foundation is committed to raising awareness and shedding light on kidney disease through the creation of video content distributed via the web and social media. With many hopes and plans for the future, we are pushing forward as time and funds are available to create new content and keep things moving.

What I envisioned when setting out and establishing The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation was a resource of media content to both shed light on kidney disease to the general public  – which usually doesn’t give their kidneys a second thought – as well as creating a place for patients to find a little bit of comfort with their own battles. By telling patients’ stories, highlighting struggles and accomplishments, and also highlighting research in the field, we can create a place of inspiration and hope. While we have several video series at various stages of development in the works, our primary focus right now is ramping up our mini-documentary web series as funding allows.

We launched with two Public Service Announcements that went live in May of 2016. These two were centered around the National Kidney Foundation’s statistic, “13 people die every day waiting for a kidney transplant,” with a combined viewership of just over 30,000 views on Facebook & YouTube.

In March of 2017, we launched the first episode of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life,” which is a web mini-documentary series of patients telling their stories in their own words. To date, four episodes of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life” have been posted online, with just under 50,000 views spread across Facebook and YouTube.

In the coming months, we will also be releasing the first three episodes of a companion to the patient series, telling living donor stories with more episodes of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life” to follow later this year. Additionally, we released the first video of what will grow to a regular series highlighting research focused on University of California, San Francisco, & The Kidney Project.

That’s the basic plan and history of The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation, with lots of projects in the works and plans to continue to grow. Everything comes down to funding and continuing to grow our network. We are constantly looking for new patients to highlight in our videos, and building a database of contact info for future episodes. To view our videos and learn more about the organization, follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/foreveristomorrowfoundation) & subscribe on YouTube (www.youtube.com/c/TheForeverisTomorrowFoundation).

Thank you, Scott, for explaining the inside workings of starting a foundation to raise awareness for kidney disease. Here’s hoping we get a bunch of readers commenting to tell us they borrowed from your structure to begin such foundations of their own and/or are interested in sharing their stories with  you. Note: The Facebook page has some of the most interesting information on kidney innovations that I’ve read about. Take a look for yourself.

On another note, KidneyX is looking for our input. This is from the email they sent me:

“We seek your feedback on how the KidneyX project can best spur innovation in preventing, diagnosing, and/or treating kidney diseases. While we encourage all relevant comments, we are interested particularly in responses to the following questions. You may respond to some or all of the questions:

  1. What unmet needs – including those related to product development—should KidneyX prize competitions focus on? If you have ideas for more than one topic area/issue, how would you rank them in order of importance? If you are a person living with a kidney disease, what makes these topic areas for product development important?
  2. What assistance or services might HHS and ASN offer to KidneyX prize winners that would encourage the greatest participation from a broad range of innovators?
  3. In what ways might HHS and ASN, through KidneyX, effectively encourage collaboration or cooperation between participants/prize winners while respecting their intellectual property rights?
  4. Particularly for those interested in participating in a KidneyX prize competition but unfamiliar with kidney functions and diseases, what information would you find it most useful for HHS and ASN to share publicly?”

You can submit your comments using the title “KidneyX Project Comment” by their September 14 deadline at:

E-Mail: please send responses to KidneyX@hhs.gov.

Mail: please send mail to
KidneyX c/o Ross Bowling
200 Independence Avenue SW, Room 624D
Washington, D.C., 20201

You don’t need to be a kidney patient to respond; you can also be an innovator.

This is, without a doubt, the most businessish (Love the writer’s license to initiate new words, don’t you?) blog I have posted to date. I hope it was both helpful and interesting to you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not That Kind of Trial

I enjoy reading murder mysteries and thrillers, especially Victorian era ones like the work of Anne Perry.  Sometimes they include –  or even start with – the trial and work their way backwards to the crime. The trial. That got me to thinking about a different kind of trial: clinical trials. How did they begin? What are they? WHY are they?

According to the National Institutes of Health (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/studies/clinicaltrials/:

“Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. These studies also may show which medical approaches work best for certain illnesses or groups of people. Clinical trials produce the best data available for health care decision making.

The purpose of clinical trials is research, so the studies follow strict scientific standards. These standards protect patients and help produce reliable study results.

Clinical trials are one of the final stages of a long and careful research process. The process often begins in a laboratory (lab), where scientists first develop and test new ideas.

If an approach seems promising, the next step may involve animal testing. This shows how the approach affects a living body and whether it’s harmful. However, an approach that works well in the lab or animals doesn’t always work well in people. Thus, research in humans is needed.

For safety purposes, clinical trials start with small groups of patients to find out whether a new approach causes any harm. In later phases of clinical trials, researchers learn more about the new approach’s risks and benefits.

A clinical trial may find that a new strategy, treatment, or device
• improves patient outcomes;
• offers no benefit; or
• causes unexpected harm

All of these results are important because they advance medical knowledge and help improve patient care.”

That seemed to answer my last question, too, since their purpose is safely test new drugs or therapies.

Are these something recent? Something developed since the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) was instituted? No, they are far, far older. This is from Dr. Arun Bhatt’s Evolution of Clinical Research: A History Before and Beyond James Lind, which you can find at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149409/. I found it fascinating.

“The world’s first clinical trial is recorded in the ‘Book of Daniel’ in The Bible…. This experiment resembling a clinical trial was not conducted by a medical, but by King Nebuchadnezzar a resourceful military leader…. During his rule in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered his people to eat only meat and drink only wine, a diet he believed would keep them in sound physical condition…. But several young men of royal blood, who preferred to eat vegetables, objected. The king allowed these rebels to follow a diet of legumes and water — but only for 10 days. When Nebuchadnezzar’s experiment ended, the vegetarians appeared better nourished than the meat-eaters, so the king permitted the legume lovers to continue their diet…. This probably was the one of the first times in evolution of human species that an open uncontrolled human experiment guided a decision about public health.”

Well, then, who is this James Lind mentioned in the title of Dr. Bhatt’s paper? I turned to England’s The Museum: Brought to Life at http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/jameslind for the answer:

“The Scottish surgeon James Lind was born in Edinburgh and served an apprenticeship at the Edinburgh College of Surgeons. He then worked as a ship’s surgeon until he opened his own practice in Edinburgh in 1748. Lind discovered the use of citrus fruit as a cure for scurvy when he conducted an early clinical trial. While working as a naval surgeon, Lind encountered cases of scurvy, a disease which often struck sailors on long voyages. The cause, a lack of essential vitamins, was unknown at the time. Earlier doctors had suggested that fresh fruit could be used to treat scurvy, but Lind was the first to test the effects of different diets systematically on a group of patients in a clinical trial. In 1754 he began to feed 12 scurvy patients different foods and found that patients eating citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges recovered much faster than those who were given other kinds of food.”

And now? Why are clinical trials important to us as kidney patients? In this year’s May 21st blog (Use the topic dropdown to the right of the blog itself; it’s easier than scrolling through all the blogs.), I wrote about the benefits of All of Us Research Project. The following is from that blog.

“The goal is to advance precision medicine. Precision medicine is health care that is based on you as an individual. It takes into account factors like where you live, what you do, and your family health history. Precision medicine’s goal is to be able to tell people the best ways to stay healthy. If someone does get sick, precision medicine may help health care teams find the treatment that will work best.

Researchers Share Discoveries

Research may help in many ways. It may help find the best ways for people to stay healthy. It may also help create better tests and find the treatments that will work best for different people.”

KidneyX is also involved. On June 24th (Use the topic dropdown again.), I included their principles in the blog.

Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

Did you notice that first principle: patient-centered? Or the fifth one: collaborative? We are included in that; we’re the patients.

IDEA Lab is one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ partners. This is how they define themselves:

‘We test and validate solutions to solve challenging problems in the delivery of health and human services.’”

I know, I know. Now you want to know where you can join clinical trials. How about Antidote? You can go to their website at https://antidote.me/match/search/questions/1?utm_campaign=unisearch&utm_source=slowitdownckd_com&utm_medium=ctsearch&utm_content=no_js or use the widget to the bottom right of the blog. If you’d like a bit more information, I wrote about them on Oct. 7th, 2017 (Use the month dropdown if you’d like to read that blog.)

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea… and I’ve run out of space.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Third Kidney

Here I am back from the semiannual vacation with my husband, brother, and sister-in-law. It was sad to realize this was our last cruise, but some of our bodies just can’t handle that anymore. It looks like mine may be one of them since I’m in bed feeling not so great. How was I ever going to be able to write a blog for Monday, I wondered.

And then I remembered that I’d met someone with an idea so old that it’s new again and he’d promised a guest blog for this week.  And there it was, right in my mailbox. I’d met Raymond Keller, Jr. DO at the American Association of Kidney Patients I attended recently. He had an intriguing idea, one I thought should be shared with you.

Take it away, Raymond…

First and foremost, please do not consider any of the following as medical advice. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medical treatment plan.

I’m not the first person to suggest the skin as a “Third Kidney,” but like many others I did independently conceive the idea. For the origin story you can read a recent interview done by the American Association of Kidney Patients. The premise of the Third Kidney is that skin, through the sweat glands, can excrete water, potassium, and urea in amounts that would be clinically useful to patients with chronic kidney disease especially those on dialysis. Before we get into the Third Kidney, let’s take a brief look into the history of dialysis itself.

Willem Johan Kolff is credited with being the inventor of dialysis. He pieced together things that could be found in a contemporary house to create the first dialyzer. The original dialysis membrane was a sausage casing. Crude, but effective. Belding Hibbard Scribner would come to create the “Scribner shunt” which allowed repeated use of the same vascular access. Once long term vascular access was obtained, long term hemodialysis became a reality.

Now let’s get down to the details about how sweating can help dialysis patients. While there are many potential compounds that can build in the body with renal failure, urea, water, and potassium are of particular importance. Let’s take a moment to explore the consequences of each and how sweat therapy can help.

Water is essential to life. So essential, we search for evidence of it on other planets to decide whether life could exist. To most dialysis patients water is a constant enemy. It is the reason they have to spend more than two hours on dialysis per day – to reach their dry weight. The evidence for keeping fluid off is part of the reason why people that do dialysis more than 3 days a week have better outcomes.

As anyone who lives between the Arctic and Antarctic Circle has likely experienced, sweating removes water from your body. Sweating is so interrelated with being human that almost every culture in human history has a tradition of inducing it. The Finns are perhaps the most well-known with their saunas. The Russians have banas, the Turks have hammams, and the Native Americans have sweat lodges. While everyone is different, it is not unreasonable to expect that a 45 minute sauna session could remove between 500-1000mL of fluid from the body. Higher losses are possible with training. To put that into context, a 4 hour dialysis session typically removes 2000mL and removing more than 400mL per hour can cause symptoms of hypotension. Sweating out fluid is a natural process, which is why it can reduce the ultrafiltration required.

In the table 1 below (adapted from https://www.homedialysis.org/life-at-home/articles/fluid-and-solute-removal-part-two) it is very obvious how likely it is for people to develop symptoms from removing fluid from the blood stream rather than the skin. This is especially important when we consider that the skin is where most excess fluid is stored, which is why dialysis patients get puffy.

Now on to potassium. Even though it is a vital nutrient, it has a dark side. Potassium chloride is one of the typically used compounds in lethal injections because it causes the heart to stop beating. As it builds up in the blood of a patient with renal failure it can have the same effect. Similar to fluid overload, keeping potassium levels at an appropriate level are a major reason daily dialysis patients do better than thrice weekly patients. Fortunately, potassium is excreted in sweat at 2-3 times the level it is found in the blood stream. During a regular sauna session the clinically relevant amount of potassium, in upwards of 4.6 grams, can be removed from the body.

And urea? Urea is a controversial molecule is the dialysis community, yet a relatively simple molecule that our bodies use to detoxify ammonia and remove nitrogenous waste from our bodies. We used to think that it freely diffused across cell membranes, like water. But seminal work by my mentor Jeff Sands, MD showed that there are molecular transporters for urea. In the dialysis community, urea rebound is proof that urea is not freely diffusible.

There has been much debate about the toxicity of urea. Regardless of whether urea is toxic, and at what levels it is, blood urea nitrogen is one way we monitor the adequacy of dialysis. Urea is excreted in sweat at about 2-3 times its presence in serum. Understanding how sweat affects the blood urea nitrogen levels will be important in coordinating the combination of sweat therapies with dialysis.

How does all of this relate to SlowItDownCKD? There is value to researching whether sweat based therapies like sauna can be used to reduce the dependence on dialysis. Given the above facts it is useful to ask the question of whether sweat based therapies can reduce the number of days per week or number of hours per day of dialysis. There is also the potential for sweat based therapies to push off dialysis for patients with CKD. Third Kidney currently has IRB (institutional review board, also known as an independent ethics committee) approval to do safety trials with Harvard Medical School professors. After a safety trial, the next step would be a study in patients that have chronic kidney disease.

When it comes to sweat based therapies for CKD I’ll leave you with a few thoughts:

  1. No rational person would say that sweating vis-a-vis exercise is a bad idea for CKD patients.
  2. If fluid balance was better achieved by sweating hours, or even days of dialysis, might be avoided.
  3. If potassium is lost in sweat it would allow people to liberalize their potassium intake, opening up a culinary panoply.

If you are interested in learning more about how sweat based therapies may be beneficial in patients with chronic kidney disease and the research that Third Kidney is doing, you can visit us at ThirdKidney.net.

Wow! Just wow. This is – as we used to say in college decades ago – mind blowing. It’s so simple, yet so complex. With many thanks for this new/old information, I’ll say good bye for now.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Sunny Transplants?

A few years ago, when I wrote only about Chronic Kidney Disease, the representative of a transplant group asked me to write about transplantees and skin cancer. I respectfully declined. As you may have noticed, my topics have become more wide ranging this year, from PKD to the Chronic Disease Coalition and all things in between. This week, I’m going to add skin cancer and transplantees to that list.

For me, that means going back to the basics since I was surprised that this was even an issue. The logical place to start was The Skin Cancer Foundation at https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/are-you-at-risk/transplants:

The most common skin cancers after transplant surgery are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), in that order. (See Table Below) The risk of SCCs, which develop in skin cells called keratinocytes, is about 100 times higher after a transplant compared with the general population’s risk.  These lesions usually begin to appear three to five years after transplantation…. While basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer in the general population, it occurs less frequently than SCC in transplant patients. Even so, the risk of developing a BCC after transplantation is six times higher than in the general population….

Risks of Four Types of Skin Cancer After Transplantation

Risks of Four Types of Skin Cancer After Transplantation

You could have knocked me over with a feather. From this stunning information, I extrapolated that it looks like the anti-rejection drugs are the source of the skin cancer.

Let’s see what these drugs are. The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/immuno explains.

Immunosuppressants are drugs or medicines that lower the body’s ability to reject a transplanted organ. Another term for these drugs is anti-rejection drugs. There are 2 types of immunosuppressants:

  1. Induction drugs: Powerful antirejection medicine used at the time of transplant
  2. Maintenance drugs: Antirejection medications used for the long term.

Think of a real estate mortgage; the down payment is like the induction drug and the monthly payments are like maintenance drugs. If the down payment is good enough you can lower the monthly payments, the same as for immunosuppression.

There are usually 4 classes of maintenance drugs:

  • Calcineurin Inhibitors: Tacrolimus and Cyclosporine
  • Antiproliferative agents: Mycophenolate Mofetil, Mycophenolate Sodium and Azathioprine
  • mTOR inhibitor: Sirolimus
  • Steroids: Prednisone

Okay, got it. But I still don’t understand what that has to do with skin cancer. The Department of Dermatology at Oxford University Hospital of the National Health Service Trust (in the United Kingdom) at https://www.ouh.nhs.uk/patient-guide/leaflets/files/11710Pimmunosuppressants.pdf offers this information:

“These drugs work by reducing your immune (defence) system. However, these treatments also increase your risk of skin cancer….”

Now it makes sense. While saving your life via preventing the rejection of your new life giving organ by suppressing your immune system, other conditions like cancer are sneaking passed that suppressed immune system. So you need to take these drugs to keep your new kidney, but they could shorten your life by letting the cancer cells multiply.

PATIENT CHARACTERISTIC FREQUENCY OF
DERMATOLOGY EXAM
No history of skin cancer or Actinic Keratosis Every 1-2 years
History of Actinic Keratosis Every 6 months
History of 1 non-melanoma skin cancer Every 6 months
History of multiple non-melanoma skin cancer Every 3 to 4 months
History of high risk SCC or melanoma Every 2 to 3 months
History of metastatic SCC Every 1 to 2 months

Hmmm, but maybe not. There must be a way to at least help guard against this… and there is. Actually, there are several including avoiding the sun, using sun block, wearing the newish sun blocking clothing, and simply wearing clothing that blocks the sun. (The chart above comes from the same site as the quote below). As the University of California San Francisco Skin Transplant Network phrases it at http://skincancer.ucsf.edu/transplant-patients:

“Clothing is a simple and effective sun protection tool. It provides a physical block that doesn’t wash or wear off and can shade the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Long-sleeved shirts and pants, hats with broad brims and sunglasses are all effective forms of sun protective clothing.”

There’s quite a bit of easily understood information about the different kinds of skin cancer that affect transplantees at the above URL. By the way, this request for patient participants also appears on their website:

We need transplant recipients to please help us by participating in our brief survey study about your skin.

Please click here to access our online consent form to learn more about the study.

After electronically signing the consent form, you will be directed to a short questionnaire about your health.
There will be no cost to you; your participation is entirely voluntary and will not influence your care or your relationship with your doctors.

Thanks so much for your help in skin cancer research!
UCSF IRB approved, #16-20894

Not only do you find the information you may be looking for about skin cancer and transplantees on this website, but you also have this opportunity to help with skin cancer research.

Whoops! I neglected to define UVA and UBV rays. Encarta Dictionary apprises us that UVA is “ultraviolet radiation, especially from the sun, with a relatively long wavelength,” while UBV is “ultraviolet radiation, especially from the sun, with a relatively short wavelength.” Not very helpful, is it?

Let’s try this another way. Many thanks to Cancer Research UK at https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/sun-uv-and-cancer/how-the-sun-and-uv-cause-cancer for clearing this up for us:

“There are 2 main types of UV rays that damage our skin. Both types can cause skin cancer: UVB is responsible for the majority of sunburns. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin. It ages the skin, but contributes much less towards sunburn.”

Another way to help yourself avoid skin cancer after having a transplant is to learn how to monitor your skin for cancer and then to do so on a regular basis. If you notice any abnormal spots or growths, get thee to thy dermatologist quickly. Apologies to Mr. Shakespeare for suborning his line.

You’ll probably be taught the ABCDE of Melanoma detection, too. The American Academy of Dermatology at www.aad.org is another good source of skin cancer information.

Here are some things I didn’t know about skin cancer that you may not know either. I picked them up at a local lecture on avoiding skin cancer:

Your lips need sunscreen, too.

The most common spot for men to develop skin cancer is the back; for women, it’s the legs.

Stage 3 and 4 Melanoma can get into your lymph nodes.

Effective sun screens contain both titanium and zinc.

Use SPF 50 on your face.

My transplanted friends always tell me transplant is “a treatment, not a cure.” Now I understand it’s a treatment with some possibly serious side effects.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Only One?

Loads of good things have been happening in my family lately, among them a couple of marriages. That, of course, brings new people into the family. There’s always that obligatory meet-the-new-in-laws dinner.  At one of these, a just added family member mentioned that she only had one kidney. Then she asked me what that means as far as Chronic Kidney Disease… and I didn’t know. Today’s blog is for her.

Let’s jump right in with this explanation from the U.S. Department of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/solitary-kidney.

When a person has only one kidney or one working kidney, this kidney is called a solitary kidney. People born with kidney dysplasia have both kidneys; however, one kidney does not function (top right). When a kidney is removed surgically due to disease or for donation, both the kidney and ureter are removed (bottom right).

Well that was pretty straight forward. I wondered if she should be taking any kind of special cautions. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, PubMed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16985610,

Removal of one kidney leads to structural and functional changes by the remaining kidney, including increased filtration of the remaining glomeruli. These functional changes have generally been considered beneficial because they mitigate the reduction in the total glomerular filtration rate that would otherwise occur, but experimental evidence suggests that these changes may have an adverse effect on the remaining kidney.

That sounded great… until I got to ‘adverse effect.’ So, naturally, I wanted to know what they meant. The Kidney and Urology Foundation of America, Inc. at http://www.kidneyurology.org/Library/Kidney_Health/Solitary_Kidney.php told me what I wanted to know.

If having a single kidney does affect your health, the changes are likely to be so small and happen so slowly that you won’t notice them. Over long periods of time, however, these gradual changes may require specific measures or treatments. Changes that may result from a single kidney include the following:

  • High blood pressure. Kidneys help maintain a healthy blood pressure by regulating how much fluid flows through the bloodstream and by making a hormone called renin that works with other hormones to expand or contract blood vessels. Many people who lose or donate a kidney are found to have slightly higher blood pressure after several years.
  • Proteinuria. Excessive protein in the urine, a condition known as proteinuria, can be a sign of kidney damage. People are often found to have higher-than-normal levels of protein in their urine after they have lived with one kidney for several years.
  • Reduced GFR. The glomerular filtration rate (GFR) shows how efficiently your kidneys are removing wastes from your bloodstream. People have a reduced GFR if they have only one kidney.

In the nephron …, tiny blood vessels intertwine with urine-collecting tubes. Each kidney contains about 1 million nephrons.

You can have high blood pressure, proteinuria, and reduced GFR and still feel fine. As long as these conditions are under control, they will probably not affect your health or longevity. Schedule regular checkups with your doctor to monitor these conditions.

Wait a minute! Those are also the effects of Chronic Kidney Disease. And as you read on, you’ll see that the precautions are the same as those for someone who already has CKD.

What, then, is my new in-law supposed to do since she has a solitary kidney? I went to Medic8, a new site for me, at http://www.medic8.com/kidney-disorders/solitary-kidney.htm for the following suggestions.

Monitoring

Your doctor should monitor your kidney function by checking your blood pressure and testing your urine and blood once a year.

  • Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 or lower. You have high blood pressure if it is over 140/90. People with kidney disease or one kidney should keep their blood pressure below 130/80. Controlling blood pressure is especially important because high blood pressure can damage kidneys.
  • Your doctor may use a strip of special paper dipped into a little cup of your urine to test for protein. The colour of the “dipstick” indicates the presence or absence of protein. A more sensitive test for proteinuria involves laboratory measurement and calculation of the protein-to-creatinine ratio. A high protein-to-creatinine ratio in urine (greater than 30 milligrams of albumin per 1 gram of creatinine) shows that kidneys are leaking protein that should be kept in the blood.
  • … scientists have discovered that they can estimate a person’s GFR based on the amount of creatinine in a small blood sample. The new GFR calculation uses the patient’s creatinine measurement along with weight, age, and values assigned for sex and race. …. If your GFR stays consistently below 60, you are considered to have chronic kidney disease.

Controlling Blood Pressure

If your blood pressure is above normal, you should work with your doctor to keep it below 130/80. Great care should be taken in selecting blood pressure medicines for people with a solitary kidney. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are two classes of blood pressure medicine that protect kidney function and reduce proteinuria. But these medicines may be harmful to someone with renal artery stenosis (RAS), which is the hardening of the arteries that enter the kidneys. Diuretics can help control blood pressure by removing excess fluid in the body. Controlling your blood pressure may require a combination of two or more medicines, plus changes in diet and activity level.

Eating Sensibly

Having a single kidney does not mean that you have to follow a special diet. You simply need to make healthy choices, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and low-fat dairy foods. Limit your daily salt (sodium) intake to 2,000 milligrams or less if you already have high blood pressure. Reading nutrition labels on packaged foods to learn how much sodium is in one serving and keeping a sodium diary can help. Limit alcohol and caffeine intake as well.

Avoid high-protein diets. Protein breaks down into the waste materials that the kidneys must remove, so excessive protein puts an extra burden on the kidneys. Eating moderate amounts of protein is still important for proper nutrition. A dietitian can help you find the right amount of protein in your diet.

Avoiding Injury

…. Having a solitary kidney should not automatically disqualify you from sports participation. Children should be encouraged to engage in some form of physical activity, even if contact sports are ruled out. Protective gear such as padded vests worn under a uniform can make limited contact sports like basketball or soccer safe. Doctors, parents, and patients should consider the risks of any activity and decide whether the benefits outweigh those risks.

I am happy to say I think our new relative is going to find this a comforting blog. I know I did.

Oh, talking about one. I have one desk copy of the now retired The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 left. Leave a comment if you’d like to have it. All I ask is that you not have received a free book from me before.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

Help When You Need It

One of the many people I met at the AAKP Conference who opened my eyes to things I’d never even though of before is Samantha Siegner from the Chronic Disease Coalition. We hit it off right away and I felt comfortable exposing my ignorance to her. Once she explained what the coalition does, I wanted all my readers to know about it. Happily for us, Samatha agreed to write a guest blog for us.

*****

Nearly half of all adults in the United States have one or more chronic health conditions, and the number continues to climb. By 2020, it is projected that over 157 million Americans will battle a chronic disease. While some chronic conditions can be prevented, others are inherited, or may develop as a result of numerous factors. Despite the prevalence of chronic disease, few organizations are specifically dedicated to addressing the needs of patients who battle all types of chronic conditions rather than a single disease.

The Chronic Disease Coalition (CDC) is national nonprofit organization that represents people battling a wide range of chronic conditions, including kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and more. As patients dealing with kidney disease or other chronic conditions know, it can be difficult to work, attend school or even get adequate health insurance coverage. Our organization works to not only raise awareness and educate the public about chronic conditions, but also to advocate for patients who need better access to care. Our mission is focused on exposing and addressing discriminatory practices and policies that are preventing patients from accessing necessary, often lifesaving care.

Discrimination based on a person having a chronic disease comes in various forms, but we most frequently see it occur in the school, workplace and with health insurance plans.

  1. School: For those looking to complete high school or even college, it can be difficult to regularly attend class or have the energy to complete assignments. For kidney patients, dialysis poses difficulty attending class, as you may be required to dialyze for several hours multiple times a week. It is important to educate yourself on the services offered by the school to ensure that you are receiving reasonable accommodation that support your effort to pursue education.

Our organization works with people to ensure that they are being treated fairly in the school system, read more in one patient’s story here.

  1. Workplace: Many people with chronic conditions may frequently visit the doctor’s office for treatment, response to a flare up or check-ups to ensure that their condition is being managed properly – these actions can require additional time off work. While it is not legal for an employer to ask about your medical history, some patients may disclose it. This can lead to a greater understanding and development of a process for how you miss work, but for others, it may lead to losing their job or being demoted.

The CDC helps patients by supporting legislation that protects the privacy of employee’s medical history and ensures that businesses and corporations cannot discriminate based on their health status. Additionally, we ensure that patients are educated on their rights within the workplace.

  1. Insurance: Unfortunately, insurance discrimination is all too common. Insurers institute a variety of practices to increase their bottom line at the expense of the patients, without consideration for the long-term health consequences. Some of the most common practices include, step-therapy or fail-first, lengthy prior authorization approval times, nonmedical switching and bans on charitable premium and copay assistance, which is a common way for insurers to target kidney patients.

Right now, insurers across the nation are targeting chronic disease patients who rely on charitable premium assistance to help afford the cost of their health care. By utilizing a loophole within a 2014 guideline issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, insurers are denying premium and copay payments made by charities, like the American Kidney Fund, on behalf of patients. As a result, patients are forced off their current health plan and left to find other options. This is a commonly used tactic to force patients off of private health plans and onto public plans, because the insurer doesn’t want to cover chronic disease patients that require expensive, regular treatment, like dialysis. While kidney patients are eligible for Medicare before the age of 65, a public plan may not meet their needs or cover services that can help a patient become eligible for a transplant.

The Chronic Disease Coalition is actively working to pass H.R. 3976, the Access to Marketplace Insurance Act to ensure that patients can access charitable premium assistance and choose the health plan that best meets their needs.

So how does the Chronic Disease Coalition work with kidney patients? In addition to advocating on behalf and beside kidney patients to ensure discriminatory policies don’t hinder their ability to access care, we work with patients in their communities to raise awareness and educate the public on kidney disease at an individual level and through our Ambassador Program.

After receiving an initial diagnosis, many people with kidney failure may not know what to expect from treatment, what questions they should ask their medical team and what changes may come to their daily life. Our Ambassador Program was developed on this understanding and is comprised of active advocates who battle chronic diseases and provide guidance, advice and advocate on issues that concern kidney patients. Ambassadors complete advocacy work that is relevant to their specific diseases and communities each month.

If you are interested in learning more about the CDC and how you may be able to become involved, please click here. Change happens when people speak out, share their stories and take action – the CDC is proud to provide a platform for kidney patients and all people with chronic conditions to do so.

*****

Did you click through on all the blue words? I did. I’d had inklings of what each of these meant, but the full explanation made my understanding so much better. All I can say is: Thank you!

SlowItDownCKD 2014 should be out on Amazon.com any day now. B & N takes a few weeks longer. This had formerly been the second half of the unwieldy, small print, indexless The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2. I’d vowed to separate both this book and the equally unwieldy, small print, indexless The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 into two books each… and now I have. Of course, that leaves me with desk copies of each of the Book of Blogs which I no longer need. Want one? Let me know (but only if you haven’t received a free book from SlowItDownCKD before).

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

No Longer an Actor, Now I’m a Reviewer (Of Sorts)

Last month I received an email from Screen Media asking if I’d like to preview Chicken Soup for the Soul’s One Last Thing. It stars two actors I know about, “…Wendell Pierce (TV’s The Wire) and Jurnee Smollett-Bell (TV’s Underground) and is primarily set in Brooklyn.” Hmmm, two appealing actors AND it was set in Brooklyn. I still wasn’t sure so I emailed back asking if SlowItDownCKD was the intended recipient for this email. Once assured it was, I agreed. Hey, I’m always up for an adventure.

When I saw the movie, I understood. One story line in the movie deals with a kidney dysplasia patient’s need for a donor. That’s all I’ll say about the movie so I don’t ruin the story for you. In other words, you’ll get no spoiler alerts from me.

In addition to crying at the most poignant parts of the movie, my brain was working overtime. Granted the character suffered from a rare kidney disease, but so rare that I’d never heard of it? You can tell what’s coming, can’t you? If I hadn’t heard of it, have my readers? And that’s what I’ll be writing about today.

Okay now, let’s see what this rare kidney disease is. It made sense to me to go to one of the tried and true websites I usually go to for information. This is what The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/children/kidney-dysplasia had to offer:

“Kidney dysplasia is a condition in which the internal structures of one or both of a fetus’ kidneys do not develop normally while in the womb. During normal development, two thin tubes of muscle called ureters grow into the kidneys and branch out to form a network of tiny structures called tubules. The tubules collect urine as the fetus grows in the womb. In kidney dysplasia, the tubules fail to branch out completely. Urine that would normally flow through the tubules has nowhere to go. Urine collects inside the affected kidney and forms fluid-filled sacs called cysts. The cysts replace normal kidney tissue and prevent the kidney from functioning.

Kidney dysplasia can affect one kidney or both kidneys. Babies with severe kidney dysplasia affecting both kidneys generally do not survive birth. Those who do survive may need the following early in life:

  • blood-filtering treatments called dialysis
  • a kidney transplant

Children with dysplasia in only one kidney have normal kidney function if the other kidney is unaffected. Those with mild dysplasia of both kidneys may not need dialysis or a kidney transplant for several years.

Kidney dysplasia is also called renal dysplasia or multicystic dysplastic kidney.”

They also offered some clarifying diagrams.

So now we know what it is, but what causes it? I went to MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/kidney_dysplasia/article.htm#what_is_kidney_dysplasia for the answer to this question.

“Kidney dysplasia may be caused by the mother’s exposure to certain drugs or by genetic factors. Pregnant women should talk with their health care providers before taking any medicine during their pregnancy. Drugs that may cause kidney dysplasia include prescription medicines, such as drugs to treat seizures and blood pressure medicines called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). A mother’s use of illegal drugs-such as cocaine-can also cause kidney dysplasia in her unborn child.

Kidney dysplasia can also have genetic causes. The disorder appears to be an autosomal dominant trait, which means one parent may pass the trait to a child. When kidney dysplasia is discovered in a child, an ultrasound examination may reveal the condition in one of the parents.

Several genetic syndromes that affect other body systems may include kidney dysplasia as one part of the syndrome. A syndrome is a group of symptoms or conditions that may seem unrelated but are thought to have the same cause-usually a genetic cause. A baby with kidney dysplasia might also have problems of the digestive tract, nervous system, heart and blood vessels, muscles and skeleton, or other parts of the urinary tract.

A baby with kidney dysplasia might have other urinary problems that affect the normal kidney. On the left, urine is blocked from draining out of the kidney. On the right, urine flows backward from the bladder into the ureter and kidney, a condition called reflux.

(Me, here: You’ll be able to figure out which was the cause of Jurnee Smollett-Belle’s character once you see the movie.)

Problems of the urinary tract that lead to kidney dysplasia might also affect the normal kidney. For example, one urinary birth defect causes blockage at the point where urine normally drains from the kidney into the ureter. Another birth defect causes urine to flow from the bladder back up the ureter, sometimes all the way to the kidney. This condition is called reflux. Over time, if these problems are not corrected, they can damage the one working kidney and lead to total kidney failure.”

I’m thankful this is a rare disease, but wondered just how rare it was. Back to NIKKD at the same URL as before:

“Scientists estimate that kidney dysplasia affects about one in 4,000 babies…. This estimate may be low because some people with kidney dysplasia are never diagnosed with the condition.”

I’m not a numbers person, but that seems like a lot of babies.

Now, the biggie. What can be done before the need for dialysis or transplant rears its head? I went directly to Urology Care Foundation at http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/kidney-(renal)-dysplasia-and-cystic-disease/printable-version since the kidneys are part of your urologic system.

  • “Treatment may only include symptom management.
  • Monitoring should include blood pressure checks, kidney function tests, and urine testing for protein.
  • Periodic ultrasound can be used to make sure the other kidney continues to grow normally and no other problems develop.
  • Antibiotics may be needed for urinary tract infections.
  • The kidney should be removed only if it causes pain or high blood pressure, or ultrasound is abnormal.”

The AAKP Conference I wrote about last week opened my eyes to how much I don’t know about other kidney diseases and those that might affect CKD. The result is that I’ve asked quite a few people and organizations to guest blog about those areas in which they are experts. Expect to see these guest blogs throughout the summer.

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!

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Someone on a Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease Support Group Page asked how we can make others more aware of what CKD patients want. I’ve been tweeting (exchanging remarks on Twitter) with those who could answer this question just recently. How perfect was that?

The first thing the American Society of Nephrology requested is that those of you who are familiar with Twitter, or are willing to become familiar with this social media, join the monthly #AskASN twitter chats. To join Twitter you simply go to Twitter.com and sign yourself up, no special expertise necessary. That pound sign, or as it’s commonly known now – hashtag, before the words signify that this is a person or group with a Twitter account. What comes after the hashtag is your handle, the name you choose for yourself. Mine is – naturally – #SlowItDownCKD. You can search for me on Twitter.

#AskASN is one of the hashtags of the American Society of Nephrology, the ASN which you’ve often seen me quote. Yes, they are respected. Yes, they are doctors. And, yes, they do want to know what we as kidney disease patients want them to know about our lives as their patients. Big hint: their next Twitter Chat will be in late July.

This year’s May 28th blog was about KidneyX, the same topic as June’s Twitter Chat. Here’s a little reminder of what KidneyX stands for:

“Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

Did you notice that first principle: patient-centered? Or the fifth one: collaborative? We are included in that; we’re the patients.

IDEA Lab is one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ partners. This is how they define themselves:

“We test and validate solutions to solve challenging problems in the delivery of health and human services.”

And this is what they had to say during the KidneyX Twitter Chat:

HHS IDEA Lab‏Verified account @HHSIDEALabJun 19

Absolutely. Patients are innovators and we need to recognize that #askASN#KidneyX

Patients. They want to hear from us, patients.

Before reproducing a small part of the @AskASN KidneyX Twitter Chat, I want to introduce the players.

Kevin J. Fowler (@gratefull080504) is a patient who has had a preemptive kidney transplant and is highly involved in the patient voice being heard.

Tejas Patel (@GenNextMD) is a nephrologist with a large social media presence who advocates “for halting the progression of ckd so no dialysis or transplant [is necessary].”

James Myers (@kidneystories) is a fairly recent transplant with a strong advocacy for transplant patients.

I’m me; you already know me.

Now, the excerpt:

Thank you @GenNextMD Me too! #AskASNhttps://twitter.com/GenNextMD/status/1009245134964318209 …

Kevin J. Fowler added,

  • Tejas Patel @GenNextMD

Replying to @kidneystories

I am advocating for halting the progression of ckd so no dialysis or transplant #askasn #moonshot

Replying to @gratefull080504@GenNextMD

@GenNextMD That’s what those of us pre-dialysis want, too. The question is how do we do that? As a lay person, I’m at a loss here.

Replying to @Slowitdownckd@gratefull080504

Major undertaking by medical community, organizations (ASN, AAKP, NKF, RPA) and implementation of breakthrough therapies keeping patient central. Engaging all stakeholders will help prioritize what works for patients. Dialogue via formal & social media helps us understand better.

Replying to @GenNextMD@Slowitdownckd@gratefull080504

We recently had patient editorial in @CJASN by @gratefull080504 and interview https://www.kidneynews.org/kidney-news/features/patient-engagement … Lot of work needs to be done

I read the article. I think you should, too. Kevin makes the point that patient voices need to be heard and the nephrologist who was interviewed with him, Dr. Eleanor D. Lederer, agrees.

From reading my blog alone, you’re already familiar with the oft quoted American Society of Nephrology (ASN), American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) which was the subject of June 25th blog, and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), a staple in the blog. But what is the RPA?

Let’s find out. It turns out that this is the Renal Physicians Association. Their website is at https://www.renalmd.org/. If you go there, you’ll notice four different choices. One of them is Advocacy. That’s the one I clicked. Keep in mind that this site is for physicians.

Become An Advocate for Excellence in Nephrology Practice

It is not only your right but also your obligation to let elected officials and policy makers know how you feel about important issues. It is your responsibility to speak out on matters that affect you directly or no one else will. RPA has developed pathways to allow you to do this.

Recognizing that nephrologists and their practice teams have limited time, an easy way to get involved in federal advocacy is by joining the RPA Political Action Committee (PAC) and Nephrology Coverage Advocacy Program (NCAP).

Take Action Nationally!

RPA’s Legislative Action Center (LAC) facilitates the important communication between RPA members and their members of Congress as well as representatives in their state legislatures. The LAC allows RPA members to track the progress of and search for all current legislation being considered by Congress.”

Our doctors are being asked to speak with the government on our behalf. But how will they know what we want or need, you ask. Easy enough: you tell them when you see them. You have regular appointments; that’s when you can talk with them about legislation you feel is necessary.

I never knew how much my opinion is wanted. I never knew how much YOUR opinion is wanted. Now we all know, so how about speaking out, raising your voice, and advocating for yourself. It’s not that scary if you start by just speaking with your doctor.  Although, I’ll be looking for you on ASN’s #askASN Twitter Chat in late July.

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!

Eating Makes Me Hungry

I couldn’t figure it out. I had my renal diet down pat (That only took ten years, she thought snidely.) When the foods I’m sensitive to had to be removed from that diet, I worked the new-reduced-possibilities-for-food-choices diet out pretty quickly, too. But then I noticed that I was hungry pretty much only after I ate.

I’d prefer to eat only if I’m hungry, but some of my medications require food first. Okay, so I knew I had to eat at least twice a day and graze several times during the day to keep my blood glucose level. I thought I took care of that by eating a small breakfast, lunch as my main meal when I got hungry, and a much smaller, almost snack type meal for dinner.

So why did eating make me hungry? Was I not taking enough food in? Nope. I counted calories to check and was not much under my allotted 1,200 per day. So what was it?

Women’s Health at https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/g19920742/foods-that-make-you-hungrier/ named the following seven foods that make you hungrier:

  1. Whole wheat bread
  2. Fruit juices
  3. Egg whites
  4. Green smoothies
  5. Non-fact dairy
  6. Pickles
  7. Whole wheat crackers

Hmmm, between the renal diet and my food sensitivities I don’t eat any of these. Wait, I do eat whole eggs which contain egg whites, but I think Dr. Caspero meant only the whites for the purposes of this list.

Of course, I wanted to know why these foods make you hungrier. This quote is from the same article.

“For the most part, fat, fiber, and protein help with satiation,” says Alex Caspero, R.D. “So foods without those components will likely leave you searching for your next meal in no time.”

Reminder: R.D. means registered dietician.

I don’t eat whole wheat anything because I have sensitivity to it, but doesn’t it have fiber? That’s a yes and no answer. It does have fiber, but is more processed than regular flour which means less fiber. Fiber helps to fill you up. Side bar here:  Did you know that flour of any kind has wheat in it since it’s made from one or more of the three parts of the grain? That’s mean no bread for me.

Nope, Dr. Caspero didn’t answer my question as fully as I wanted it to be answered. Back to the drawing board, boys and girls.

Wait a minute. This from the BBC at http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zt22mp3 looks like it’s getting close to answering my question.

“Different types of food we eat affect the brain in various ways. For example, fatty foods trick the brain into believing that you have eaten fewer calories than you actually have, causing you to overeat. This is because fatty foods such as butter and fried foods contain a lot of densely packed energy.

However, other foods give a lasting sense of fullness. Fibre triggers the release of gut hormones that make you feel full. A low fibre diet though, with little or no wholemeal produce or fruit and vegetables, may leave you open to feelings of hunger.

Foods with a low GI (glycaemic index) such as nuts, vegetables and beans release energy more slowly than high GI food such as white bread and sugar. Eating more low GI foods will suppress your hunger by increasing levels of gut hormones that help you feel fuller for longer.”

Foods with a low GI, huh? This brings me back to the lessons from the Diabetes Nutritionist my family doctor sent me to when she discovered I was (and still am four years later) pre-diabetic. Okay, I can take a hint. What are some of these low GI foods?

The American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-index-and-diabetes.html  was able to help us out here:

“Low GI Foods (55 or less)

  • 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread
  • Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli
  • Pasta, converted rice, barley, bulgar
  • Sweet potato, corn, yam, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes and lentils
  • Most fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots

Medium GI (56-69)

  • Whole wheat, rye and pita bread
  • Quick oats
  • Brown, wild or basmati rice, couscous

High GI (70 or more)

  • White bread or bagel
  • Corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal
  • Shortgrain white rice, rice pasta, macaroni and cheese from mix
  • Russet potato, pumpkin
  • Pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers
  • melons and pineapple”

According the renal diet I follow, the Northern Arizona Council on Renal Nutrition Diet, I could eat all of these foods. According to my food sensitivities, I could only eat oatmeal, some fruits, and vegetables. Maybe that’s why eating makes me hungry.

Take a look at this. Redbook (and to think I smirked at my mom for reading this magazine when I was a teenager) at https://www.redbookmag.com/body/healthy-eating/g2819/foods-that-make-you-hungry/?slide=1 explains about fruit making you feel hungrier:

“’Fruit juice may already be on your no-go list, but if you’re eating more than one serving of the whole variety (i.e. one banana or one cup of berries), you may want to scale back. It may have nutritional benefits, but fruit is not going to help suppress your appetite,’ says Perlmutter. ‘It contains both fructose and glucose, which won’t signal insulin, causing your appetite to rage on.’”

Perlmutter is David Perlmutter, MD, a board-certified neurologist and author of Brain Maker.

Got it: More fiber, less sugar. Now the only question is can I get myself to adhere to that… and can you if you choose to stop being hungrier after eating than you were before.

Talking about magazines, Arizona Health and Living at https://issuu.com/arizonahealthandliving/docs/arizona_health_and_living_magazine__9a2d374f4dffc2 is helping me spread awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease. This is in their June 2018 issue.

 

Guess what I found when I was preparing my non-CKD book for last Thursday night’s reading at our local The Dog Eared Pages Used Book Store. You’re right. It’s a copy of the newly minted (um, printed) SlowItDownCKD 2017. Would you like it? All that I require is your address and that you haven’t received a free book from me before.

Random thought: I cannot believe I just chose a Father’s Day gift for my son-in-law’s first Father’s Day. Add my youngest’s upcoming nuptials and this is a very happy world I live in. Here’s hoping yours is a happy one, too.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Last Week, The Country… This Week, The World

Last week, I wrote about a U.S. clinical trial program, AllofUs Research Program. This week we’re going global. Huh? What’s that, you ask. It’s KidneyX.

I can just feel you rolling your eyes. (Ask my children if you don’t think I can do that.)  Hold on a minute and I’ll let KidneyX explain what they are from their website at http://www.kidneyx.org.

“The Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX) is a public-private partnership to accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases. KidneyX seeks to improve the lives of the 850 million people worldwide currently affected by kidney diseases by accelerating the development of drugs, devices, biologics and other therapies across the spectrum of kidney care including:

Prevention

Diagnostics

Treatment”

I know, I know. Now you want to know why you should be getting excited about this program you don’t know much about. Let’s put it this way. There hasn’t been all that much change in the treatment of kidney disease since it was recognized. When was that? This question was answered in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“…nephrologist Veeraish Chauhan from his ‘A Brief History of the Field of Nephrology’ in which he emphasizes how young the field of modern nephrology is.

‘Dr. Smith was an American physician and physiologist who was almost singlehandedly responsible for our current understanding of how the kidneys work. He dominated the field of twentieth century Nephrology so much that it is called the “Smithian Era of Renal Physiology“ .He wrote the veritable modern Bible of Nephrology titled, The Kidney: Structure and Function in Health and Disease. This was only in 1951.”

1951?????? It looks like I’m older than the history of kidney disease treatment is. Of course, there were earlier attempts by other people (Let’s not forget Dr. Bright who discovered kidney disease in the early 1800s.) But treatment?

Hmmm, how did Dr. Smith treat kidney disease I wondered as I started writing about KidneyX.

Clinics in Mother and Child Health was helpful here. I turned to their “A Short History of Nephrology Up to the 20th Century” at https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/a-short-historic-view-of-nephrology-upto-the-20th-century-2090-7214-1000195.php? and found this information:

“His NYU time has been called the Smithian Era of renal physiology for his monumental research clarifying glomerular filtration, tubular absorption, and secretion of solutes in renal physiology …. His work established the concept that the kidney worked according to principles of physiology both as a filter and also as a secretory organ. Twenty-first century clinical nephrology stems from his work and teaching on the awareness of normal and abnormal functioning of the kidney.”

I see, so first the physiology and function of the kidney had to be understood before the disease could be treated.

 

I thought I remembered sodium intake as part of the plan to treat CKD way before the Smithian Era. I was wrong. This is also from SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“With all our outcry about following a low sodium diet, it was a bit shocking to realize that when this was first suggested as a way to avoid edema in 1949, it was practically dismissed. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the importance of a low sodium diet in Chronic Kidney Disease was acknowledged.”

Aha! So one of our dietary restrictions wasn’t accepted until the 1970s. I was already teaching high school English by then. Things did seem to be moving slowly when it came to Chronic Kidney Disease treatment.

Let’s see if I can find something more recent. This, from the National Kidney Fund at https://www.kidney.org/professionals/guidelines/guidelines_commentaries sounds promising, but notice that this has only been around since 1997. That’s only 21 years ago. It has been updated several times, but there doesn’t seem to be that much difference… or maybe I just didn’t understand the differences.

“The National Kidney Foundation Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative (NKF KDOQI)™ has provided evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for all stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and related complications since 1997…. KDOQI also convenes a small work group of U.S. based experts to review relevant international guidelines and write commentary to help the U.S. audience better understand applicability in their local clinical environment.

Clinical Practice Guidelines are documents that present evidence-based recommendations to aid clinicians in the treatment of particular diseases or groups of patients. They are not intended to be mandates but tools to help physicians, patients, and caregivers make treatment decisions that are right for the individual. With all guidelines, clinicians should be aware that circumstances may appear that require straying from the published recommendations.”

Time to get back to KidneyX before I run out of room in today’s blog. Here’s more that will explain their purpose:

“Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

This may explain why think tanks for kidney patients, all types of kidney patients, are beginning to become more prevalent.

Let’s go back to the website for more information. This is how they plan to succeed:

“Building off the success of similar public-private accelerators, KidneyX will engage a community of researchers, innovators, and investors to bring breakthrough therapies to patients by:

Development

Driving patient access to disruptive technologies via competitive, non-dilutive funding to innovators.

Coordination

Providing a clearer and less expensive path to bringing products to patients and their families.

Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency by spotlighting the immediate needs of patients and their families.”

One word jumped out at me: urgency. I am being treated for my CKD the same way CKD patients have been treated for decades…and decades. It’s time for a change.

One thing that doesn’t change is that we celebrate Memorial Day in the U.S. every year. And every year, I honor those who have died to protect my freedom and thank my lucky stars that Bear is not one of them. There is no way to describe the gratitude those of us who haven’t served in the military – like me – owe to those who have and lost their lives in doing so.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

All of Me, uh, Us

When I was a little girl, I liked to listen to my father whistle ‘All of Me,’ written by Marks and Simon in 1931 when Charlie, my father, was just 16. Only a few years later, it became a sort of love language for my mother and him. Enter a former husband of my own and my children. When my folks visited from Florida and my then husband’s side of the family journeyed over to Staten Island from Brooklyn to visit them, they all sang the song with great emotion. (By then, Bell’s palsy had robbed my father of the ability to whistle.)

To this day, I start welling up when I hear that song. But then I started thinking about the lyrics:

“All of me
Why not take all of me?”

Suddenly, it popped. For us, those with chronic kidney disease, it should be:

“All of us

Why not take all of us?”

For research purposes. To “speed up health research breakthroughs.” For help in our lifetime. To spare future generations whatever it is we’re suffering… and not just for us, but for our children… and their children, too.

The National Institutes of Health has instituted a new research program for just that purpose, although it’s open to anyone in the U.S. over the age of 18 whether ill with any disease or perfectly healthy. While only English and Spanish are the languages they can accommodate at this time, they are adding other languages.

I’m going to devote most of the rest of this blog to them. By the way, I’m even more inclined to be in favor of this program because they launched on my first born’s birthdate: May 6. All of Us has its own inspiring welcome for you at https://launch.joinallofus.org/

This is how they explain who they are and what they intend to do:

“The goal is to advance precision medicine. Precision medicine is health care that is based on you as an individual. It takes into account factors like where you live, what you do, and your family health history. Precision medicine’s goal is to be able to tell people the best ways to stay healthy. If someone does get sick, precision medicine may help health care teams find the treatment that will work best.

To get there, we need one million or more people. Those who join will share information about their health over time. Researchers will study this data. What they learn could improve health for generations to come. Participants are our partners. We’ll share information back with them over time.”

You’ll be reading more about precision medicine, which I’ve written about before, in upcoming blogs. This is from All of Us’s website at https://www.joinallofus.org/en, as is most of the other information in today’s blog, and makes it easy to understand just what they are doing.

How It Works

Participants Share Data

Participants share health data online. This data includes health surveys and electronic health records. Participants also may be asked to share physical measurements and blood and urine samples.

Data Is Protected

Personal information, like your name, address, and other things that easily identify participants will be removed from all data. Samples—also without any names on them—are stored in a secure biobank.

Researchers Study Data

In the future, approved researchers will use this data to conduct studies. By finding patterns in the data, they may make the next big medical breakthroughs.

Participants Get Information

Participants will get information back about the data they provide, which may help them learn more about their health.

Researchers Share Discoveries

Research may help in many ways. It may help find the best ways for people to stay healthy. It may also help create better tests and find the treatments that will work best for different people.

I’m busy, too busy to take on even one more thing. Or so I thought. When I read the benefits of the program (above) and how easy it is to join (below), I realized I’m not too busy for this and it is another way to advocate for Chronic Kidney Disease awareness. So I joined and hope you will, too.

Benefits of Taking Part

Joining the All of Us Research Program has its benefits.

Our goal is for you to have a direct impact on cutting-edge research. By joining the program, you are helping researchers to learn more about different diseases and treatments.

Here are some of the benefits of participating in All of Us.

Better Information

We’re all human, but we’re not all the same. Often our differences—like age, ethnicity, lifestyle habits, or where we live—can reveal important insights about our health.

By participating in All of Us, you may learn more about your health than ever before. If you like, you can share this information with your health care provider.

Better Tools

The goal of the program is better health for all of us. We want to inspire researchers to create better tools to identify, prevent, and treat disease.

You may also learn how to use tools like mobile devices, cell phones and tablets, to encourage healthier habits.

Better Research

We expect the All of Us Research Program to be here for the long-term. As the program grows, the more features will be added. There’s no telling what we can discover. All thanks to participants like you.

Better Ideas

You’re our partner. And as such, you are invited to help guide All of Us. Share your ideas and let us know what works, and what doesn’t.

Oh, about joining:

Get Started – Sign Up

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need to do to join.

1

Create an Account

You will need to give an email address and password.

2

Fill in the Enrollment and Consent Forms

The process usually takes 18-30 minutes. If you leave the portal during the consent process, you will have to start again from the beginning.

3

Complete Surveys and More

Once you have given your consent, you will be asked to complete online health surveys. You may be asked to visit a partner center. There, you’ll be asked to provide blood and urine samples and have your physical measurements taken. We may also ask you to share data from wearables or other personal devices.

Before I leave you today, I have – what else? – a book give away. The reason? Just to share the joy that’s walked into my life lately. It’s easy to share the troubles; why not the joys? If you haven’t received one of my books in a giveaway before, all you have to do is be the first person to let me know you want this copy of SlowItDownCKD 2017.

 

I need to get back to that online health survey for All of Us now.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

Published in: on May 21, 2018 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Getting It Right Once and For All

Brain fog is one thing, but I have forgotten the meaning of a certain phrase, looked it up, forgotten its meaning again, looked it up, forgotten its meaning again and so on for years. This has got to stop. That’s why I thought writing about it might ensconce the meaning in my brain once and for all. Bet you’re wondering what the phrase is by now. It’s multiple myeloma.

I think we all know that multiple means more than one, but more than one what in this case? And does adding it to the root word – myeloma – change its meaning in any way? Let’s find out together.

Do you know what the ICD is? Let me refresh your memory if you do. I defined it in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease in the following way:

“International Statistical Classification of Disease and Related Health Problems, provides the medical codes for illnesses.”

The Whole Health Organization currently released the 10th edition. There are three different codes for multiple myeloma in this latest edition according to www.findacode.com. I thought one of them would help us.

ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code C90.00

Multiple myeloma not having achieved remission

Hypogammaglobulinemia co-occurrent and due to multiple myeloma; Light chain disease; Light chain nephropathy; Light chain nephropathy due to multiple myeloma; Multiple myeloma; Multiple myeloma stage i; Multiple myeloma stage ii; Multiple myeloma stage iii; Multiple myeloma w hypogammaglobulinemia; Smoldering multiple myeloma; Smoldering myeloma; Multiple myeloma with failed remission; Multiple myeloma NOS

ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code C90.0

Multiple myeloma

solitary myeloma (C90.3-); solitary plasmactyoma (C90.3-); Kahler’s disease; Medullary plasmacytoma; Myelomatosis; Plasma cell myeloma

ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code C90.01

Multiple myeloma in remission

ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code C90.02

Multiple myeloma in relapse

We can discount C90.01 and C90.2 from the get go because we know that remission means subsiding and relapse means whatever it is has become active again.

I didn’t really understand the terms in the diagnosis codes but, from my fractured remembering, gathered this has to do with a sort of cancer. No harm; we know the coding and now need to find out what it is that’s being coded.

I jumped right over to the American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/multiple-myeloma/about/what-is-multiple-myeloma.html and found exactly what I was afraid I would:

“Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells. Normal plasma cells are found in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system. The immune system is made up of several types of cells that work together to fight infections and other diseases. Lymphocytes (lymph cells) are one of the main types of white blood cells in the immune system and include T cells and B cells. Lymphocytes are in many areas of the body, such as lymph nodes, the bone marrow, the intestines, and the bloodstream.

When B cells respond to an infection, they mature and change into plasma cells. Plasma cells make the antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) that help the body attack and kill germs. Plasma cells are found mainly in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside bones. In addition to plasma cells, normal bone marrow is also the home for other blood cells such as red cells, white cells, and platelets.

In general, when plasma cells become cancerous and grow out of control, this is called multiple myeloma. The plasma cells make an abnormal protein (antibody) known by several different names, including monoclonal immunoglobulin, monoclonal protein (M-protein), M-spike, or paraprotein.

There are, however, other plasma cell disorders that also have abnormal plasma cells but do not meet the criteria to be called active multiple myeloma.”

One of them is monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance (MGUS) which I blogged about on April 30th of this year. Plasma cell disorders seem to be occupying my mind lately.

Wait, wait! Bone marrow. As was mentioned in SlowItDownCKD 2011, in writing about a Drugs.com article, it’s the kidneys that cause the

“…bone marrow … produce red blood cells.”

Yet, it’s the white blood cells that are part of the immune system. Remember my daughter Nima’s account of her gall bladder being removed in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2?

“…my white blood count was elevated to 12, an indication the gallbladder was infected.”

That 12 showed that she had many more than usual white blood cells which were necessary to fight the infection.

The University of Rochester Medical Center at https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=160&ContentID=35 explains succinctly:

“Your white blood cell count can be low for a number of reasons—when something is destroying the cells more quickly than the body can replenish them or when the bone marrow stops making enough white blood cells to keep you healthy. When your white blood cell count is low, you are extremely susceptible to any illness or infection, which can spiral into a serious health threat.”

One of those somethings could be multiple myeloma.

There’s another consideration here. As Chronic Kidney Disease patients, we have compromised immune systems. DaVita explained in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/treatment-overview/immunizations–which-shots-you-need-and-why/e/4837 tells us,

“…. The immune system of a person with chronic kidney disease (CKD) becomes weakened, making it difficult to fight off many diseases and infections….”

This is one great big ball of wax. While bone marrow replacement is one treatment and radiation another for multiple myeloma, the most often employed treatment is drug therapy. Here’s where the kidneys come into play again. In SlowItDownCKD 2012, I quoted myself because I felt the following was so important:

“You may need to take a lower dosage of whatever drug was prescribed or, perhaps, take it less often. If your kidneys  are  not  fully  functioning,  the  drugs  are  not  effectively being removed from your blood. It would be similar to willfully taking a drug overdose if you do not make your doctors aware of your CKD when they prescribe for you.”

Uh-oh. I need some help here. Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/cancer/multiple-myeloma-kidney-failure to the rescue!

“Kidney failure in multiple myeloma is a complicated process that involves different processes and mechanisms. The way this happens is the abnormal proteins travel to the kidneys and deposit there, causing obstruction in the kidney tubules and altered filtering properties. Additionally, elevated calcium levels can cause crystals to form in the kidneys, which causes damage. Dehydration, and medications such as NSAIDS (Ibuprofen, naproxen) can also cause kidney damage.”

This was difficult to write, so thanks for keeping me company as I struggled with it.

One final note. I blogged about Antidote, a clinical trial company, last year. You’ll find them on the blogroll, too. This Wednesday, they’ll be helping to celebrate Clinical Trials Day by hosting a Twitter chat from noon to 1 pm. The topic is storytelling for awareness and you (yes, you) are invited to join in. Use #research chat. For those new to twitter chats, you need to follow Antidote to join the chat. Their ‘handle’ is @antidote_me. I’d be there myself if I didn’t already have one of those specialists appointments that you have to wait months and months for. My loss.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Dare You Have Your First Mother’s Day?

Mother’s Day is this Sunday… and it’s my step-daughter’s first. That led me to remember my first with Ms. Nima Beckie Rosensfit and  I realized I’d never even heard of Chronic Kidney Disease then. But what if I had and I wanted to have a baby. What would I have to know?

That got me going. I know I blogged about this topic in February of this year, but I wanted to see if there was enough information for a part 2 to that blog. But, first, let’s take a look at how pregnancy affects the kidneys in a non-ckd woman.

The US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4089195/  helpful here:

“GFR rises early to a peak of 40% to 50% that of prepregnancy levels, resulting in lower levels of serum creatinine, urea, and uric acid. There is a net gain of sodium and potassium, but a greater retention of water, with gains of up to 1.6 L. Through effects of progesterone and alterations in RAAS, the systemic vascular resistance falls, leading to lower blood pressure and an increased RPF.”

You may need a reminder of some of these terms. Let’s see if What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease has their definitions. Aha! There are potassium and creatinine.

““Creatinine is … a compound released by voluntary muscle contraction. It tells the body to repair itself and grow stronger.

“Potassium: One of the electrolytes, important because it counteracts sodium’s effect on blood pressure.”

Why is this counteraction important you ask.  This tidbit from SlowItDownCKD 2011 explains:

“Then I found this in BrightHub.com’s February 13th article The Importance of the Potassium and Sodium Balance.

‘When there is potassium and sodium balance, cells, nerves and muscles can  all  function  smoothly.  With  an  imbalance,  which  is almost  always due to both an excess of sodium, and a deficiency of potassium, a set of reactions occurs leading to high blood pressure and unnecessary strain on blood vessels, the heart and the kidneys. Research has shown that there is a direct link between chronic levels of low potassium and kidney disease, lung disorders, hypertension and stroke’.”

And urea? The newly published SlowItDownCKD 2017 contains this information:

http://www.patient.co.uk/health/routine-kidney-function-blood-test has the simplest explanation.

‘Urea is a waste product formed from the breakdown of proteins. Urea is usually passed out in the urine. A high blood level of urea (‘uraemia’) indicates that the kidneys may not be working properly or that you are dehydrated (have low body water content).’”

It’s probably common knowledge that serum means in the blood rather than urine and that uric acid is the waste that remains when your body’s cells die. What baffled me was RAAS and RPP. It turns out that RAAS is renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system which, while interesting, would simply take too long to explain for this blog’s purpose. RPF is renal plasma flow. I love words, but this was getting to be a bit much for even me. I wanted to get to CKD in pregnancy. So let’s do that.

Let’s say I needed more reassurance that I could have a baby even though I had CKD. I felt like I found just that when I discovered RareRenal  at http://rarerenal.org/patient-information/pregnancy-and-chronic-kidney-disease-patient-information/and what they had to say about pregnancy and CKD.

“Good antenatal care from the earliest stages of pregnancy improves outcomes generally. This is particularly true for women with CKD. Planning for pregnancy allows women with CKD to get pregnant at the right time, while on the right medications and in the best possible health. To achieve this all women with significant CKD should receive pre-pregnancy advice so that they can assess the potential risk and to ensure that everything is in place to minimise it.

These are the key things to think about before getting pregnant:

When should a woman with CKD get pregnant?  This depends on the nature of the kidney disease. In general if a woman’s kidney function is likely to get worse over time it is better to plan the pregnancy sooner rather than later while function is still good. On the other hand, for a kidney disease that flares up and then settles down, such as Lupus nephritis, it is better to wait until the flare has settled for at least six months. Other factors to take into account are a woman’s age and fertility. They may have had drugs in the past to treat a kidney condition that can impair fertility (e.g. cyclophosphamide). If so they may need to take advice on whether this is an additional problem. Should she get pregnant at all? There are very few women these days who are advised not to get pregnant. Even then it is always up to the woman (and her partner) whether to take the risk. It is much better to be forewarned of the possible problems and to discuss these in advance.

Will she need extra medicines when she’s pregnant?  Women trying to get pregnant should start taking the vitamin folic acid to reduce the chance of their baby having spina bifida, an abnormality of the spinal cord. The normal dose of folic acid is 400ug per day and can be bought over the counter. However, if the folate level is low or a patient is on the drug azathioprine which affects the way folic acid works, the dose of 5mg daily may be prescribed. No other over the counter vitamins are required unless specifically advised by a doctor or midwife. All pregnant patients should avoid additional supplements of vitamin A. If vitamin D levels are low GPs will advise correction with high dose prescribed vitamin D (also known as cholecalciferol). Women with kidney diseases are at higher risk of pre-eclampsia. Aspirin lowers the risk of pre eclampsia, and women with CKD are usually offered a low dose aspirin (75mg once daily) throughout pregnancy unless there are specific reasons not to take it e.g. they are allergic to aspirin. Pregnant women with a high level of protein in their urine have an increased risk of developing blood clots (thrombosis). This can be reduced by small daily injections of low molecular weight heparin. Heparin reduces the way the blood clots. Both pregnancy and CKD can cause a low blood count (anaemia). When combined, anaemia can be more of a problem. Iron tablets or injections may be used and some women need to take the hormone erythropoietin (EPO) as  a weekly or monthly injection to overcome the anaemia. Blood transfusions are usually avoided in pregnancy. Pregnancy alters the control of sugar (glucose) in the body. This may be worse for patients on steroids (e.g. prednisolone), those from an Asian or African background, or who are overweight. Patients may develop a condition called gestational diabetes (diabetes caused by pregnancy) and require treatment with insulin.” How very reassuring. I’m ready… I mean are you ready to have your baby?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Something Else I Didn’t Know

One of the members of a Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease support group and I got into a bit of give and take about last week’s blog. It started with one topic and, as conversations are wont to do, ended up being about something entirely different: mgus. This is what I ended up responding:

“I don’t know mgus, either. I think the only way I can be of any help to you is to suggest you speak with your renal nutritionist and make sure she knows you also have mgus. Sorry! Hmmm, maybe I should learn about mgus and blog about it.”

As the week went on, I realized there was no “maybe” about it. So let’s learn about mgus together.

According to my old time favorite The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mgus/symptoms-causes/syc-20352362, mgus is:

“Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) is a condition in which an abnormal protein — known as monoclonal protein or M protein — is in your blood. The protein is produced in a type of white blood cell (plasma cells) in your bone marrow.

MGUS usually causes no problems. But sometimes it can progress over years to other disorders, including some forms of blood cancer.

It’s important to have regular checkups to closely monitor monoclonal gammopathy so that if it does progress, you get earlier treatment. If there’s no disease progression, MGUS doesn’t require treatment.”

Whoa! Looks like we need a lot of backtracking here. Let’s start with monoclonal. We know ‘mono’ means one and the ‘al’ at the end of the word means of or about. Now let’s deal with the unknown: ‘clon’. Dictionary.com at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/clone tells us it’s really clone (which you’ve probably already guessed) and means:

  1. a cell, cell product, or organism that is genetically identical to the unit or individual from which it was derived.
  2. a population of identical units, cells, or individuals that derive from the same ancestral line.

Oh, clone… as in Dolly, the sheep back in Scotland in 1995. Got it.

And gammopathy? That ‘o’ in the middle is just a connective so we’re really dealing with ‘gamm’ and ‘pathy’. You probably already know ‘pathy’. The Free Dictionary at https://www.thefreedictionary.com/-pathy offers a few definitions.

  1. indicating feeling, sensitivity, or perception: telepathy.
  2. (Pathology) indicating disease or a morbid condition: psychopathy.
  3. (Pathology) indicating a method of treating disease: osteopathy.

Number two is what we need for our purposes.

That leaves us with ‘gamm’, which I thought was part of gamma considering the definition of the disease. The first medical definition in The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gamma was helpful here.

“of or relating to one of three or more closely related chemical substances

  • the gamma chain of hemoglobin
  • γ-yohimbine

—used somewhat arbitrarily to specify ordinal relationship or a particular physical form and especially one that is allotropic, isomeric, or stereoisomeric (as in gamma benzene hexachloride)”

I’d have to agree if you’re thinking this is getting a bit too technical to continue down this particular road. Let’s go back to the disease itself and see what it may have to do with CKD. Hmmm, protein is mentioned in the definition and proteinuria can be a problem in CKD. Is that the connection?

We Are Macmillan, a cancer support group from England at https://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/diagnosing/causes-and-risk-factors/pre-cancerous-conditions/mgus.html, tells us:

“People with MGUS make an abnormal protein, called a paraprotein or M-protein, which is found in the urine or blood.”

I see. This M-protein does show up in the urine.

That did it. I jumped right back to the Mayo Clinic and learned that Chronic Kidney Disease may be a complication of MSUG. But, then again, so may blood clots and bone fractures.

Feeling a bit frustrated, I thought maybe symptoms would be helpful. The University of Rochester Medical Center at https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=134&ContentID=121 offers this list.

Symptoms of monoclonal gammopathies vary among these conditions, but can include:

  • Anemia or low red blood cells counts
  • Lack of energy (fatigue) or tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Pain in the bones or soft tissues
  • Tingling or numbness in the feet or hands
  • Infection that keeps coming back
  • Increased bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Headache
  • Vision problems
  • Swelling
  • Mental changes

Anemia and fatigue may also be symptoms of CKD. Yet, both MSUG and CKD are often symptomless.

To complicate matters, there’s also a disease called monoclonal gammopathy of renal significance. That’s when the monoclonal gammopathy causes the CKD. It sounds like this was not the case with the reader. She just happens to have both monoclonal gammopathy and CKD.

I’m going to switch gears here. I received an email from the American Kidney Fund (AKF) asking me if I would write about their upcoming webinar on Depression. Who could say no to that request?

“Each month, AKF hosts an educational webinar for kidney patients and their loved ones about living well with kidney disease…. Experts cover important topics and there is always a live Q&A session afterwards where viewers can send in their questions. You can find more information about the upcoming webinar here: http://www.kidneyfund.org/training/webinars/

Our next webinar for May 23rd is Depression: the overlooked complication of kidney disease.”

I’ve watched some of the webinars and found them helpful. I think you will, too.

You know that promise I made about separating my unwieldy The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 into two separate books – SlowItDownCKD 2013 & SlowItDownCKD 2104 – with larger print and a more comprehensive index? You know, just as I did when I separated The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 (now ‘retired’ as a book no longer in print is called) into SlowItDownCKD 2011 & SlowItDownCKD 2102. I am proud to announce that I’ve actually started that process.

For a retired person, my calendar sure is full and busy seems to be my middle name. I vow to have the SlowItDownCKD series completed (until it’s time to publish SlowItDownCKD 2018, that is) by the end of the summer.

Happy Mother’s Day this coming weekend. I’m going to enjoy the fact that it’s my step-daughter’s first…. and hope we get to meet The Little Prince sooner rather than later. Living in two different states was never this hard before his birth.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Something’s Fishy Here

I saw this headline the other day: Another Nail in the Coffin for Fish Oil Supplements. When I read the article, I realized it was referring to fish oil supplements for heart problems. You can read it for yourself at  https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2679051. By the way, JAMA is the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But then I wondered why I’ve been taking it all these years since I don’t have cardiology problems.  Hmmm, I do have osteoarthritis and can’t take NSAIDS. In What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, NSAIDS are explained this way:

“Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, Aleve, or naproxen usually used for arthritis or pain management, can worsen kidney disease, sometimes irreversibly.”

Okay, so I don’t take NSAIDS or fish oil supplements for heart problems, but I do take fish oil supplements for osteoarthritis. Well, that’s good since my favored medical food for osteoarthritis – Limbrel – is still in recall by the FDA for possibly causing liver problems. Who wants both liver and kidney problems? Not me.

Anyhoo (as I’ve seen it written), that got me to thinking about osteoarthritis. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2016:

“According to The U.S. National Library of Medicine at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0024677/:

‘Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints and surrounding tissues. Joints are places in the body where bones come together, such as the kneeswristsfingers, toes, and hips. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.”

I’ve since discovered there’s also psoriatic arthritis. All of these are inflammatory diseases. This is from this week’s newly published SlowItDownCKD 2017 (How about a review on Amazon.com or B&N.com as long as I’ve mentioned the book?):

“Arthritis is an inflammatory disease; psoriasis is an inflammatory disease; and Chronic Kidney Disease is an inflammatory disease. The common factor here is obvious – inflammatory disease.”

Bingo! I take the fish oil supplements for inflammation. Before I forget, inflammation is the topic of one blog or another – and usually several – in each of the books in the SlowItDownCKD series. Wikipedia’s definition helps to explain why:

“Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants, and is a protective response involving immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. The function of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and initiate tissue repair.”

Keep in mind, though, that anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry.

Since I’m writing about inflammation and CKD, I was thrilled to find this in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

“By the way, are you taking Omega 3 {Fish oil} supplements?  There’s a theory it helps retard the progress of CKD.”

Aha! Now to the heart… I mean the kidneys… of the matter. How do Omega 3 supplements retard the progress of CKD?

Let’s lead off our answer with this quote from the #NephMadness 2017: Nutrition Region article in the March issue of The American Journal of Kidney Diseases at https://ajkdblog.org/2017/03/07/nephmadness-2017-nutrition-region/

“There is some evidence that omega-6 is proinflammatory and omega-3 are anti-inflammatory.”

Of course there’s much more to the article, but it gets pretty technical.

“What’s omega-6?” you ask. I went to my long term buddy The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/expert-answers/omega-6/faq-20058172 for some help in explaining.

“Your body needs fatty acids and can make all but two of them, which is why they are called essential fatty acids. Linoleic and linolenic acids are derived from foods containing omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, respectively, which serve different functions in the body. Some of these fatty acids appear to cause inflammation, but others seem to have anti-inflammatory properties.”

But we’re getting far afield from the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 that can help retard the progress of CKD. I decided to see what the natural health community had to say about this and discovered the following in Healthy Fellow at http://www.healthyfellow.com/742/fish-oil-and-kidney-health/ :

“However, based on what we know now, it seems that fish oil supports both cardiovascular and renal health in part by moderating blood pressure, heart rate and triglycerides in at-risk patients.”

This was back in 2011, but look at all it tells us. We know that hypertension is the number two cause of CKD. Moderating our blood pressure will (hopefully) slow down the progression of the decline of our kidney function. Kidney & Urology Foundation of America, Inc. at http://www.kidneyurology.org/Library/Kidney_Health/High_Blood_Pressure_and_Kidney_Disease.php explains this succinctly:

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

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

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

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

Then there are triglycerides. I included this information from the American Kidney Fund in SlowItDownCKD 2012.

“Your triglycerides are also important. People with high triglycerides are more at risk for kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.”

I am convinced. I will be one of those who continues taking my fish oil supplements to get in that omega-3 which is going to help me with inflammation which – in turn – will help me slow down the progression in the decline of my kidney function. How about you?

We’re going to do this a little differently this time. To celebrate the publication of SlowItDownCKD 2017, the first person who hasn’t won a book giveaway yet and can correctly tell me if my new grandchild is a boy or a girl will win a copy of Portal in Time. I hope you like time travel romances.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Joy to the World

As Three Dog Night sang in Hoyt Axton’s song:

“Joy to the world
All the boys and girls now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me”

Turn up your speakers and give a listen. See if you don’t feel more joy just from listening. Thanks to Three Dog Night for placing that grin back on my face when it’s gotten lost… and to YouTube, too.

I’ve written about what stress, grief, and shock do to your body, but with recent events I have reason to wonder what happiness does to your body. The birth of our first grandchild has revealed levels of joy I never knew existed. Add to that our youngest’s engagement and you’ll find me floating at least three feet above the ground most of the time.

I did my usual poking around and found some answers.

Calgary Psychology at http://www.calgarypsychology.com/happiness/correlation-health-happiness has some information for us, although it’s not as recent as I’d like it to be since it was published in 2010:

“A study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the link between happiness and a number of health factors in 200 Caucasian adults, age 45-59 years, all of whom worked for the government in London, England. The study assessed each participant on a work day and weekend day, measuring them at work and play for a number of criteria including blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormone (cortisol) levels. Participants were measured under normal conditions and after a mental stress test. Under each condition participants ranked their happiness on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). There were no differences in happiness between people who were married or single, male or female or of varying socioeconomic status; however the happiest participants had the best results across the board for the health markers. I.e. happier people had lower heart rates, and an average of 32% lower levels of cortisol which can have a direct effect on other elements such as blood sugar.”

Cortisol? Anyone remember what that is? Let’s have a reminder, please. I found this in SlowItDownCKD 2016. It’s from Reference.com at https://www.reference.com/science/function-adrenal-gland-72cba864e66d8278.

“Cortisol is a hormone that controls metabolism and helps the body react to stress, according to Endocrineweb. It affects the immune system and lowers inflammatory responses in the body. …”

Want a little reminder about metabolism? I do. According to Dr. Ananya Mandal from News Medical Life Sciences at https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/What-is-Metabolism.aspx:

“Metabolism is a term that is used to describe all chemical reactions involved in maintaining the living state of the cells and the organism. Metabolism can be conveniently divided into two categories:

  • Catabolism – the breakdown of molecules to obtain energy
  • Anabolism – the synthesis of all compounds needed by the cells”

Aha! So joy or being happy helps the body produce the hormone that obtains energy and synthesizes what we need to live. Now I get it why I actually feel better physically when I’m happy. I was in the throes of bronchitis when my grandson was born and started getting better right away. Magic? Nope, just plain joy at work in my body.

Notice joy may have an affect via cortisol on your blood sugar, too. Blood sugar ? Why is that important? The following is from a study published in The American Journal of Kidney Disease that was included in SlowItDownCKD 2011

“Good control of blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body weight can delay the loss of kidney

function.”

And lower heart rates? How does that help us? I’ve don’t think I’ve written about that so I hopped right over to my longtime favorite the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/heart-rate/faq-20057979.

“A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness.”

Good news. Being happy – joyous in my case – is good for the heart, which automatically means it’s good for the kidneys since your heart health has a lot to do with your kidney health and vice-versa.

Let’s not forget that the lower levels of cortisol joy causes “lowers inflammatory responses in the body.” Chronic Kidney Disease is an inflammatory disease. I love it! Just by being happy, I’m helping myself with my CKD.

As the late night television commercials cautioned us once up on a time: But wait, there’s more. I turned to the Greater Good Science Center based at UC Berkeley. According to the website, they, “provide a bridge between the research community and the general public.”

That’s where I found this quote from a 2015 article at: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/six_ways_happiness_is_good_for_your_health.

“Love and happiness may not actually originate in the heart, but they are good for it. For example, a 2005 paper found that happiness predicts lower heart rate and blood pressure. In the study, participants rated their happiness over 30 times in one day and then again three years later. The initially happiest participants had a lower heart rate on follow-up (about six beats slower per minute), and the happiest participants during the follow-up had better blood pressure.”

Oh, blood pressure. This is also called hypertension and is defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease this way:

“A possible cause of CKD, 140/90mm Hg is currently considered hypertension, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, too.”

That book was written in 2010. The guidelines changed in November of last year. Take a look at the infogram from the American Heart Association. I’ve also learned that hypertension is the second leading cause of CKD.

What’s the first? You guessed it: diabetes or blood sugar that is not controlled. I am overjoyed at the results of my poking around about joy. By being fully present to the joy in my life, by simply feeling that joy, while I personally can no longer prevent my CKD, I can further slow down the progression of the decline in my kidney function. Being happy is also helping to prevent diabetes from entering my life and working on keeping my blood pressure closer to where it belongs.

This joy just goes on and on for me. This year alone, it’s been celebration after celebration: birthdays, anniversaries, the birth, the engagement, triumphs for those I love. My list grows and grows. Why not consider a little joy for your body’s sake, if not for your mental state?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Unforgetting Us

Again, and again you’ve heard me rant about why we, as CKD patients, are not diagnosed earlier so we can start treating our Chronic Kidney Disease with – at least – life style changes earlier. That could help us slow down the progression of decline in our kidney function. I maintain that if only my primary care physician had told me when he first noticed that 39% GFR, maybe I wouldn’t be in stage 3 of 5. Maybe those now on dialysis or searching for a transplant wouldn’t be in the position they are, either.

It looks like our doctors are starting to feel the same way. Thank goodness. As a CKD Awareness Advocate, I’ve met others with the same advocacy. Robin is a doctor who feels the same, and someone I consider a friend. When I read her article, I jumped at the chance to guest blog it since she has the understanding of the medicalese that can frustrate the rest of us. Without further ado, Dr. Robin Rose…

Doctor, doctor give me this news: Primary care and CKD

Nephrology News & Issues, March 2018
Robin Rose, MD

Everyone’s mind jumps right to end-stage renal disease and dialysis when kidney disease is mentioned, even among clinicians. By the time a patient needs dialysis, pathology has been smoldering, sometimes for prolonged periods of time. Nephrology gracefully manages later-stage kidney disease, but it seems the incipient cases remain in the shadows. In general practice, kidneys are often ignored.

What I want to know is this: How can we effectively forge a path between nephrology and primary care — take the reins and together harness the epidemic, starting early while the pathology of the disease may be more easily addressed?

Too many patients and too many of their primary care providers are simply unaware of renal status. The staggering number of stage 3 chronic kidney disease (CKD) cases dramatically dwindles by stage 4, and CKD exacerbates so many underlying pathologies. Morbidity leads to mortality, often without recognition of underlying kidney damage as the prominent culprit. With the worldwide nephrologist shortage, and clearly with the high cost of end-stage care, it may well be time to expand the renal education and early/moderate CKD clinical savvy in primary care.

Build CKD recognition

As a physician, I recognize pharmaceutical options as a small part of longitudinal CKD care. The point of early diagnosis is assisting patients with the arduous and necessary journey to lifestyle change. Primary care has embraced this supportive role for other diagnoses, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. This type of synergistic/collaborative care — reinforcing specialist input, following each person with his or her myriad issues — is the perfect fit for CKD.

How do we communicate to make our generalist and specialist intent merge into one clear target — enhanced patient quality of life? How can we make this work — to commence having a serious problem-solving conversation?

The literature suggests early nephrologist involvement improves long-term outcomes. Proactive primary care offers longitudinal guidance for making the enormous lifestyle changes in diet, exercise, stress management, hydration, sleep and toxic exposures, while offering psychological counseling that is required to achieve such changes. The cross-over benefits for patients’ other diagnoses is well known.

This concept of primary care nephrology could unfold into clinical reality as a professional, collaborative cooperation. With the diagnostic refinement of the nephrologist, a primary care physician can guide patients with CKD with the balancing act of comorbidities, medication management and optimal kidney lifestyle.

Likewise, what this family physician recognizes as critically useful from the consulting nephrologist is the expert focus on pathology with a diagnosis and back-up. We must agree that things like diet, exercise, sleep, stress and toxins have longitudinal importance for our patients with CKD — important enough for the primary care physician to make time with motivated patients to assess and co-discover actionable adaptations. Comorbidities with time will certainly guide the process. The success of this requires supportive enthusiasm from the specialist.

Vision of collaboration

Here is an example: A 46-year-old perimenopausal working single mother, with a history 12 years prior of pregnancy-induced hypertension and diabetes, has moderate proteinuria and a creatinine of 1.2. A nephrology consult will crystallize her individual needs. A primary care plan will address medications, CKD lifestyle needs and illuminate the notable overlap of benefits for her other diagnoses.

During the course of four visits looking at her stress, relationship to food and exercise needs, she exhibits admirable motivation, paying attention to what and how she eats and enjoying a lunchtime walking program. Reinforcing these successes while addressing medications, diet, sleep, etc. every 3 months offers an opportunity to protect nephrons and proceed further in the adaptations needed.

At this time, nephrologists cannot assume this is taking place in all primary care settings. Primary care providers, guiding patients with CKD safely through commonplace medical scenarios — like infectious illnesses, traumatic injuries, surgeries, travel and stress — need to grasp a breadth of nephrology basics. Our patients with CKD are at increased risk of acute kidney injury. Astute protection means we save nephrons. This author would welcome renal rotations at all levels of medical training, with a facet of focus on longitudinal outpatient, early and moderate CKD care. This vision of collaboration, with a commitment to early diagnosis and intervention, offers the opportunity to learn how to guide patients to a less inflammatory lifestyle.

The urgency is there. Can we talk?

  • For more information:
  • Robin Rose, MD, is a semi-retired family physician with a long-time interest in chronic illness and the role of lifestyle, with an interest in incipient and moderate CKD as a current focus. She lives in Molokai, Hawaii.

Disclosure: Rose reports no relevant financial disclosures.

Here’s a suggestion. Why not bring this article to your primary care physician? It could be that renal disease has never really crossed his mind despite the fact that 90% of the 31 million people in the U.S. who have CKD are unaware they do. You may not benefit from this – already having been diagnosed – but the next patient may… and the one after that… and the one after that…keep going.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Running on Empty

For the last two weeks, I’ve not only been a Chronic Kidney Disease patient, but also a bronchitis patient and I am tired. I’m at the point where I can do a little something, say a load of laundry, and then it’s back to bed for a while. Or maybe I can make a meal for Bear (Poor husband, he has sinusitis.), but then back to bed for a while. I know I’m always tired when I’m recuperating, but once and for all, I want to know why.

You don’t have to tell me; I’ll go back to the beginning. I looked for a definition of bronchitis and – I kid you not – found the following one from The Merriam Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/bronchitis: “acute or chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes.”

We know from the glossary in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease that acute means, “Extremely painful, severe or serious, quick onset, of short duration; the opposite of chronic,” whereas chronic is, “Long term, the opposite of acute.” But “bronchial tubes” in the definition of bronchitis?  Oh, come on. How is that going to help?

Let’s jump back to my English teacher training at Hunter College a millennium ago.  Well, it feels like a millennium ago although it was really only five decades or so ago. That’s where I learned that ‘ial’ is a suffix (a group of related letters at the end of a word that changes its meaning) that means of or about, although The Free Dictionary at thefreedictionary.com/-ial tells me “characterized by” has been added to the definition since I graduated all those years ago.

Wait a minute. I remember quoting The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bronchitis/DS00031 on bronchitis when I wrote The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 – which I still intend to separate into two more manageable books if I can just stop getting sick.

“Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic.

Often developing from a cold or other respiratory infection, acute bronchitis is very common. Chronic bronchitis, a more serious condition, is a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, often due to smoking.

Acute bronchitis usually improves within a few days without lasting effects, although you may continue to cough for weeks. However, if you have repeated bouts of bronchitis, you may have chronic bronchitis, which requires medical attention. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions included in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Treatment for bronchitis focuses on relieving your symptoms and easing your breathing.”

That clears up what bronchitis is, but why-oh-why am I so tired as I recuperate? Is it the coughing? The inflamed bronchi?

I turned to Verywell Health at https://www.verywell.com/acute-bronchitis-treatments-770331 looking for an answer. This site is comprised of “experienced doctors, nurses, patient advocates, and other experts, but may be vetted for accuracy by board-certified physicians” according to their webpage. This is what they had to offer:

“Acute bronchitis will make you very tired. This is due to both the infection and the persistent cough. It is important to rest as much as possible when you are sick. Although it may be difficult to sleep well when you have a cough, try not to exert yourself any more than is absolutely necessary so your body has adequate time to recover.”

Well, that’s stating the obvious. That first ten days I was a slug in our bed. Bear, even with his sinusitis, was waiting on me. He said it wasn’t that hard since I only ate so I’d have something in my stomach before taking my medications. I had to remind myself to drink, too.

I’d thought I’d take advantage of being in bed sick by watching movies and reading. Hah! I couldn’t concentrate, my head hurt, and I just wanted to stop coughing.

My daughters call me every day. We never decided upon that or made it a rule, they just do and I revel in it. Yet, I felt so bad that I asked them to text me instead so I wouldn’t have to talk.

I think we can understand how the cough could keep me awake which would make me very tired, but what about the infection? How did that add to the fatigue? Of course, we need to keep in mind that CKD itself can cause fatigue.

According to ABC News in Australia at http://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2015-08-06/how-does-your-immune-system-help-you-fight-colds-and-flu/6650768:

“What’s making you feel lousy?

The symptoms you experience when you come down with a cold or flu are not only the result of the infection, they are also the result of your body’s immune response to the infection.

For example, Dr Burns says: ‘Fever is the body’s response to the virus. Increasing body temperature can inactivate the virus.’

When you get an infection, as well as white cells your body also activates other systems including cytokines (chemical messengers) and the complement system (a series of proteins designed to kill infections).

These trigger inflammation and can cause symptoms like redness, warmth, swelling, pain. So your runny nose is actually caused by a local inflammatory response to the virus.”

So it’s as simple as that. My body was tired from fighting the infection. I guess the easiest answer is sometimes the correct one.

We have been so busy being sick in my house that we’ve ignored both Easter and Passover this year. I hope you haven’t and if you celebrate, it’s been a warm, family oriented celebration for you.

By the way, we have our very first grandchild – a boy – who was born March 30th. You’re right. Of course we have to have a book give away to celebrate! Be the first to wish us Mazel Tov – that means congratulations or best wishes in Yiddish – and win yourself a copy of SlowItDownCKD 2016. As usual, the contest is only open to those who haven’t won a book giveaway before.

I have a friend, one very dear to my heart, who also ends her missives to me with, “Blessed be, my friend.” I don’t think she’d mind my sharing that sentiment with you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!