More than 26 million American adults have chronic kidney disease, but this number, like all statistics, tells only part of the story, and as important as data is, I think it also serves to remove us from the personal stories and the heartache this silent disease brings.
We have to remember that each one of these numbers represents a human being-a father unable to care for his family, a mother who has died way too young, often leaving children behind and in my case, a 24 yr old son who, without warning was admitted to the hospital as shocked doctors worked to save his life.
How is it that a young man should have no warning, no signs of this insidious renal failure? How is it that kidney disease causes more deaths than breast cancer and nobody seems to know about it?
When I walk into a dialysis center, I see rows of people, seated-resigned and hooked up to a machine that cleans their blood. 3 or 4 hours they sit with that hopeless stare and they do this three times per week. AND…Kidney disease doesn’t discriminate:
Jorge Zuniga, a father of six suffered from high blood pressure his entire life. He is in shock that he is in kidney failure.
Toni Payton, an educated middle-aged woman had flu symptoms and when her family insisted she go to the doctor, she resisted. But her decision saved her life. Not only had her kidneys failed, but she was living on borrowed time. She had no idea.
Barbara Cain, Sharon Lamb, Robert Collins… the list could encircle this building-this block, perhaps this city.
I guess what bothers me so much is the look on their faces as they sit in a chair, blood pulled from their body, artificially cleaned, and returned. Each one of them has the same vacant stare-glassy eyes, hopelessness and despair enveloping them. They have given up because they know it will be eight years if they are lucky enough to qualify for a kidney.
These people are members of our family, our community. They are uncles and aunts, cousins, brothers and yes, they are our children.
Instead of wondering why, I am prepared to be part of the solution. Instead of despair, I will seek answers. And instead of allowing this quiet killer to continue, I will speak out. I will walk, run, crusade and I will raise money because to enact change we must become part of that change.
With the grace of God, my son will live and with a scheduled transplant next month, he will probably thrive, but the impact of nearly losing him, the crushing pain of watching him struggle for his life, has left a lasting impression on my family and me.
If our lives will mean anything, it has to encompass helping one another.
If we can save one life, it will be worth it.
By Charles Machado