Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tethered to dialysis no more

For the past couple of years I have written a series of articles about improving your financial health. This time I am writing you about protecting your health. You can’t drive a truck, support your family, or keep a business going if you ignore your health.

One of the health problems I have struggled with over the past 30 years is polycystic kidney disease. PKD, as it is more commonly referred to, is also called the silent killer. It affects your kidneys and quite often people don’t know they have it.

I discovered I had it when I started having elevated blood pressures and kidney stones in the early 1980s. PKD affects one person in every 500 of the general population and usually doesn’t skip generations. In October 2008, my kidneys suddenly failed, and for the next 28 months I was on dialysis.

While dialysis kept me alive until I qualified for a kidney transplant, it was no panacea. Extreme lack of energy and all kinds of other medical issues due to the inability of removing some toxins in the blood, plus being tethered to a dialysis machine nearly every day for the past 28 months, didn’t provide a very high quality of life.

On Jan. 25, 2011, I finally received the news I was seeking. A young man in his 30s from Florida lost his life and I was a match. I received the word at 8 a.m. and by 8:20 p.m. I was headed to surgery.

I came home nine days later and am currently quarantined for the next two weeks while my immune system is rebuilt to prevent rejection. For the rest of my life I will be required to take certain drugs to prevent rejection of the transplanted kidney. I will also have to have labs drawn monthly and will need to control my exposure to people who are sick.

The membership of OOIDA currently is in excess of 150,000. This means nearly 300 of you have PKD. Furthermore, parents who have PKD have a 50 percent chance of passing this disease on to their children.

I believe I received it from my father who passed away from cancer when I was just 14 years old. His father reportedly died from sudden renal failure in the 1940s. There is no simple indicator if you have this disease so discuss your family history with your doctor. If you have high blood pressure you certainly may have it.

You can live for many years with this disease unaffected, but knowing that you have it will make it easier to get on a transplant list and will allow you to plan your life accordingly.

Transplant centers are available in nearly every city. The waiting time for a kidney varies among them all. In some parts of the country the wait is five to seven years. Here in Kansas City, it’s about two to two and a half years. Mine was longer due to my size.

Kids get preferential treatment as they don’t tolerate dialysis very well. With rampant drug problems in different parts of the country, kids are becoming more prevalent on transplant lists, which mean you may have to wait longer than anticipated. When I was accepted on to the list I was told the wait would be between 12 and 18 months, so double what you are told. And don’t wait and don’t ignore your health.