by michele sprague
w r i t e s t y l i n g s
Kidney Disease –
devastating and often preventable
The cabin is nestled among evergreens and maples, and the scenery is beautiful. Twenty-nine year old
Bill Motter stayed there in October and watched the leaves change color. He took long walks on the ground, covered with colorful, crunchy leaves, and gazed at the shimmering lake. It was the perfect place to get away—a place to relax, a place to think, a place to feel safe. But the young Mt. Morris man didn’t feel safe. And the beauty and solitude of Mother Nature didn’t calm him.
“I was running away,” Mr. Motter said, explaining that his physician Dr. M. W. El-Nachef, said he’d have to start dialysis treatments in a couple of months.
Mr. Motter became aware of kidney problems in January, 1993. His body retained fluids, which he tried to control with a special diet. By November his typical weight of 135 pounds swelled to 181.
Mr. Motter went to Genesys Regional Medical Center-
St. Joseph Campus Emergency Department and was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which meant his kidneys no longer functioned. From that point on survival meant regular dialysis treatments. He received his first treatment at St. Joe’s.
Mr. Motter is one of approximately 165,000 people in the U.S. on dialysis, according to the U.S. Renal Data System’s 1993 annual report. But 13 million people in our country have a kidney and/or urologic condition, reports the National Institute of Health.
Not only are kidney diseases life-threatening, but they often progress without symptoms until the kidney is destroyed, says Dr. El-Nachef, medical director of Kidney Care Center, Inc. “To make a situation worse, the lab results are insensitive to the early stages of renal failure.”
So, what can you do to make sure you and your loved ones don’t become a dialysis statistic? Treat the two main causes of kidney disease— hypertension and diabetes—stresses Dr. El-Nachef. “If you treat high blood pressure real religiously and the blood sugar religiously, then your chance of having kidney disease is much less,” he says.
Statistics from the U.S. Renal Data System’s 1993 annual report support Dr. El-Nachef. The primary causes for people diagnosed with end-stage renal disease are diabetes at 34.2 percent and hypertension at 29.4 percent. Only 0.9 percent are the result of congenital and other hereditary diseases. Even these people can delay kidney failure with proper diet and medication,
Dr. El-Nachef says.
That means following your doctor’s directions explicitly, says Mr. Motter, who wonders if his kidney failure could have been delayed. Mr. Motter has been battling diabetes since he was seven years old and says he didn’t always follow his treatment to the letter.
“I wanted to be like the other kids and didn’t follow the diet,” he says.
Today his weekly schedule includes three-three hour hemodialysis treatments at Kidney Care Center, Inc. This treatment uses a dialyzer, or special filter, to clean his blood. His blood travels through a tube into the dialyzer, where wastes and extra fluids are filtered out. Then his clean blood flows through another tube back into his body.
Peritoneal dialysis is another form of treatment available to patients who qualify. They insert a liquid chemical into their abdomen and drain it up to four times a day.
Dr. El-Nachef is excited about the modern treatments for kidney failure. “In the past we were simply happy to have people just stay alive on the machine. Right now this is not enough—they have to be alive and well. And we have the technology to do that.”
According to Dr. El-Nachef, modern dialysis machines are twice as fast. At one time, dialysis took six hours for a treatment; now it takes three to three-and-a-half hours. And today’s patients feel better than patients did 20 years ago.
Not only are the machines more efficient, but new medications are available to support the hormonal aspects of the patient’s needs, says Dr. El-Nachef. “In the old days everyone was having osteoporosis. Everyone was anemic. Everyone was short of breath. Everyone was tired. Right now, we can correct all those things.”
Even though the medical community is making strides in treating kidney failure, the best course of action is kidney transplant for qualified patients. Dialysis treatments only try to replace the failed kidneys; they are not cures.
Dr. El-Nachef encourages people who have relatives on dialysis machines to donate kidneys. If you don’t have a relative getting dialysis treatments, you can still donate your kidneys and get two people off dialysis machines.
According to the United Network for Kidney Sharing, 23,350 people have their names on the kidney transplant waiting list as of February 16, 1994.
“Don’t rule yourself out by not filling out a donor card,” says Joel Newman, manager of corporate communications for the United Network for Kidney Sharing. "And don’t assume you’re too old if you are older than 55. People 60-70 years of age have been kidney donors.
“Let the assessment be made at the time of your death,” Mr. Newman says.
All you have to do is go to the local secretary of state office, pick up a donor sticker, fill it out and place it on the back of your driver’s license.
“There is no need for anybody to take his or her kidneys to heaven,” Dr. El-Nachef says. And people like
Mr. Motter prefer you didn’t.
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Genesys Health System
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the emotional, heartbreaking story
of a 29 year-old man
end-stage renal failure,
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