Kidney Failure-A Family Affair

Kidney Failure-A Family Affair

Kidney Failure-a family affair. It really does affect the entire family, especially a close family structure like ours.

When my 24-year-old son, Michael called from his college town to tell me he was going in the hospital with kidney failure, I went into complete shock. And I hear this story-the reaction to kidney failure news from a lot of people with end-stage renal disease.

How does this happen? How do doctors miss the obvious signs that their patients are nearing the edge of a threshold that will soon change their lives forever? Michael was sky-diving the week before and other than feeling lethargic, he had no real signs that he was getting pretty close to death.

It’s not like he wasn’t checked by a doctor either. In the weeks preceding his discovery of kidney failure, Michael had seen two different doctors for an inflamed knee. One doctor wanted him to begin a regiment of physical therapy and the other started him on a high dose of anti-inflammatory drugs that would further erode his renal function.

What should the average American patient do in order to protect themselves? How do you know if your kidneys are working properly? If you have kidney failure?

When you have a visit with your doctor, ask them to check your kidney function. This is called a GMR Test (Glomerular Filtration Rate) and it measures, among other things,  the creatinine level in your blood. Creatinine is the waste as a result of healthy kidneys doing what they are supposed to do. Most healthy people have a creatinine level of  about .06 to 1.3 milligrams per deciliter.

Most doctors will not even think to provide this simple test, but it may save your life. Last year, the National Kidney Foundation asked me to speak at a luncheon of business leaders in Irvine, CA. Another speaker, who was a nephrologist, confirmed what I am telling you. Doctors are not trained to ask for kidney function tests without you advocating yourself.  It is not their fault, they are simply not aware that kidney disease is growing at a rapid rate.

To put this in perspective, Michael entered the hospital with a creatinine level of 20. That’s right. Twenty times normal and eight nephrologists came to his hospital room because they told me even the textbooks have never documented such high levels in someone who was still alive.

Well, that made me feel just great. Here I was sitting in his hospital room watching a machine remove and clean blood before returning it to a very sick young man and doctor after doctor were sneaking a peek in the room just to see if the rumor had validity.