Kidney disease growing rapidly in NW OhioWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
The human body is not supposed to contain three kidneys. Neither is a healthy, active man in his late 20s supposed to have kidney failure.
Both physical oddities are and were true for Maumee’s Dwight Kynard, a bank manager at Huntington National Bank.
Looking at the now 49-year-old, who underwent a kidney transplant in 1989, one would never guess either to be true. After years of thrice-weekly dialysis sessions, new-organ adjustments and the subsequent complex medication schedule that follows them, Kynard is back to living a healthy, normal life.
March is National Kidney Month, and Kynard said he feels part of his mission in the post-transplant stage of his life is to help inform the public about the disease that blindsided the young, otherwise healthy bank manager in 1986.
“It’s almost like I’ve been given a second chance at life,” he said. “I want to cherish every moment. I want to do what I can to give back, and put more into life than I take out of it.”
Unbeknownst to most, kidney disease is a growing threat to the health of the average American, largely because of the average American’s growing waistline and rising blood pressure.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 20 million Americans (one in nine adults) have chronic kidney disease. An equal number are at an increased risk for developing the disease, the majority of whom — like a young Kynard in the mid-1980s — have no idea of the potential danger.
“There’s not going to be a lot of hurting from this disease,” said Holly Hoagland-Fojtik, executive director of the Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio, referring to the largely hidden, sudden route the disease tends to take on its victims. “It’s almost a silent disease.”
The disease’s two leading causes — high blood pressure and diabetes — are sometimes genetic, but are often direct consequences of poor lifestyle choices that are completely voluntary.
Hoagland-Fojtik is keenly aware of the rapid growth of the disease in her agency’s 20-county service area. Currently, there are slightly more than 3,500 clients aided by the foundation, an all-time high. By 2010, that number will be closer to 10,000.
“It’s important (the public) realizes this is a coming tsunami of kidney disease,” she said.
For 40 years, the Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio has aimed to help kidney disease patients remain contributing and functioning parts of society. The agency uses its annual budget of less than $500,000 to help with medication needs, transportation to dialysis (the artificial cleansing of blood that’s supposed to be done by the kidneys), provide medical ID tags and support patients’ emotional and financial concerns.
Dr. Steven Martin, an associate professor and interim chair of pharmacy practice at the University of Toledo’s College of Pharmacy, is president of the area kidney foundation’s board of trustees.
Martin estimated as many as half of the cases of kidney disease in Northwest Ohio are attributed to factors that are preventable.
“We expect there to be a tremendous increase in the number of people in this area diagnosed with diabetes,” he said.
Martin said all of the city’s dozens of dialysis units are typically full as they constantly struggle to keep up with the demand.
Kynard, despite his young age and dedication to keeping himself in shape, fits into one key category for kidney disease: he’s African American.
The rate of kidney disease in the African-American population dwarfs those of other races. Figures show kidney failure strikes 777 out of every million African-Americans. That rate is 501 for American Indians, 281 for Asian Americans, 276 for Hispanics and 269 for Caucasians.
At some point in 1986, Kynard started feeling sluggish and vomiting once every week or so. Thinking it was the flu, the 29-year-old admits he tried “handling it” himself for a while. After a month, the vomiting had increased to three days a week. He’d find himself out of breath after carrying his young daughter up a flight of stairs. The fitness buff knew something was wrong.
That something was his red blood cell count was at a dangerously low level. In just the 30 or so days since Kynard began experiencing the unexplained vomiting, his kidneys had shut down.
Kynard’s doctor immediately sent him to the emergency room. Dialysis was imminent. For the next two and a half years, Kynard spent four hours of each Monday, Wednesday and Friday in dialysis, having machines do for his blood what his kidneys no longer could.
A single parent at the time, Kynard had to juggle work, dialysis treatment and the task of caring for his young daughter, Tenisha.
“It made it difficult, but I was very determined,” he recalled. “I was going to do everything I could to give her a normal childhood.”
Angie Henry, a nurse practitioner with Nephrology Consultants of Northwest Ohio and a member of the Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio’s board of trustees, is familiar with the strain dialysis puts on an individual. She sees approximately 100 kidney disease patients several times each month, making sure they’re receiving adequate dialysis and keeping their blood pressure under control.
“It’s difficult because they often work during the day and go to dialysis after,” Henry said. “Some do very well, and some you can see that it really drains them.”
Henry’s main objective with the kidney foundation is that members of the public take the steps necessary to address kidney disease.
“If you have a family history of diabetes and hypertension, you need to be monitored for that,” she said. “It’s important to know your family history and be aware of it.”
In 1989, the time came for Kynard to get a kidney transplant. Because of potential complications with their removal, both of his old, non-functioning kidneys remain in place. After the transplant, Kynard was hit especially hard by another burden of kidney disease: the financial one.
Required to take up to 12 pills a day, he found it difficult to keep up with his other bills because of medication costs that exceeded $400 each month, even with insurance coverage.
“It’s a true hardship for our clients,” Hoagland-Fojtik said. “We have a lot of seniors who have saved all their lives, and they have to take their saved money and use it all on transportation (to dialysis).”
Eventually, Kynard was weaned off most of the medications, although he still takes two pills for his kidney he will take for the rest of his life.
Kynard remains grateful at the second chance at life he’s been given. In addition to the Kidney Foundation, he is active with Life Connection of Ohio, United Way and Easter Seals.
Speaking on life after his transplant, Kynard said, “It’s more than just allowing an individual to add more years to their life. It gives me the opportunity to help more people.”
A wide smile breaks across his face as he ponders his words. “And that’s the way the world should work!”
For more information on the Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio, call (419) 329-2776 or visit www.kfnwo.org.