This year’s walk was held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus. It started out as a cool day which gradually got too warm. The UMKC campus with its hilly terrain was perfect for the walk ,giving everyone a good work-out. Teams of walkers fall into different groups, those who walk in memory of a loved one, those who are kidney disease sufferers and transplant recipients, and those who care for these patients. There were more walkers this year and there was entertainment for all from music and dancing to hot dogs and chips to face painting for the children. The kidney walk is a celebration of life.
Felix developed end stage renal disease, (known as ESRD, a condition where kidney function falls to 10% or less) due to diabetes complications, one of the most common causes of kidney disease. Other causes include high blood pressure, birth defects such as polycystic kidney, auto-immune disease such as lupus erythematosus, kidney infections, glomerulonephritis, injury or trauma, drugs and toxic substances, and other kidney disease. Stubborn man that Felix was, he ignored symptoms, doctor’s advice and family’s (of which there are six physicians and four nurses)pleas to get his diabetes under control until it was too late. Twenty six million Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease. More are at risk.
Once ESRD sets in, the patient must undergo kidney dialysis three times a week in a dialysis center or daily in their home otherwise, he dies because the body cannot get rid of toxins and excess fluids. One of 355.000 Americans who rely on dialysis for their life, Felix underwent dialysis for seven years. When I was a medical student in the Philippines in the 60’s, all we had available was peritoneal dialysis (dialysis done through the lining of the abdomen) with its constant risk of infection called peritonitis. Technology has so improved that this risk is much lower for those who opt for peritoneal dialysis and those who have hemodialysis (exchange of fluids through a fistula on the arm where a vein and an artery are connected and rerouted) can even do it themselves. The whole process still takes about 4 hours each time. Felix used to call it his second job because he went to dialysis after work. Dialysis allows the person with ESRD to live as normal a life as possible such as having a full time job or homemaking. There are reciprocal dialysis centers in the US and all around the globe allowing the individual to travel for work or pleasure. When our extended family went on an Alaskan cruise one year, we chose a sailing that had dialysis on board. The staff of these dialysis centers is exceptionally committed and treats their patients like family. I am very grateful for how they prolonged my husband’s life.
Felix got a kidney transplant towards the end of his life. Some 104,000 Americans are still waiting for a kidney transplant. One day, while recuperating from his transplant surgery, we watched a documentary about people waiting on a kidney transplant. I recall seeing my husband, a grown stoic man, weep for the staggering numbers of people waiting and the realization of the enormity of the gift he had been given.
And so our family will walk next year again. We will walk for Felix and for the many people with ESRD waiting for a second chance.
Seen on the back of a Tee shirt of one of the team walkers:
What Kidney Disease Cannot Do
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot destroy peace.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot suppress memories.
It cannot invade the soul.
It cannot steal eternal life.
It cannot conquer the spirit.
Sign the organ donation line on your driver's license. "Heaven knows your organs are better needed on earth."
This article first posted on Qondio: