March starts the beginning of Kidney Awareness Month, so I thought I would write about the two diseases that led to my renal failure. Most people already know this, but I have Polycystic Kidney Disease and diabetes. While one may already know about diabetes, I usually get a blank stare on peoples’ faces when I say Polycystic Kidney Disease or PKD.
Ironically, I was one of those people who didn’t know anything about PKD when I was first diagnosed. I remember the nurse telling me I had this disease and handing me a packet of information. Unbeknownst to me, I had cysts covering both omy kidneys. I learned this while I was sitting in the hospital with my first episode of renal failure. My only glimpse into this disease, other than my nurse handing me this information, was watching an episode of Oprah the year before where style expert Stephen Cojocaru had talked about his recent kidney transplant and this terrible disease.
Reading through the packet, I found out that this disease is one of the leading causes of renal failure. I can testify to the fact now, having spent a year and five months on dialysis and now having a kidney transplant. PKD is just a tough disease, and it takes a toll on your body. The disease leaves the kidneys with multiple cysts that keep growing. In some cases, the size of the kidneys become as large as actual footballs which leads to lots of stretching, forcing the other organs to have less space. In some cases, people have to have the PKD kidneys removed since they lead to back pain, one side effect that I have not dealt with.
Yet while PKD was the primary cause of my renal failure, it would be a complete lie if I said it was the only reason I ended up on dialysis. Diabetes is also one of the greatest culprits of renal failure. In fact, I believe most studies have shown that diabetes and hypertension are the top two factors that lead to advanced kidney disease.
To be honest, I think diabetes is an incredibly large problem in this area. I know I have witnessed myself some of the greatest problems that come from Diabetes, including my kidney failure. My grandfather also ended up on dialysis due to diabetes. He passed away when I was about 12 years old, but I can remember clearly how he suffered with this horrible disease. He dealt with dialysis, had both of his legs and an arm amputated as a result of this disease. When I was initially diagnosed with diabetes, all I could think about was my grandfather weeping after realizing that his other leg had to be cut off.
Now, I will admit that it is awfully difficult to resist sugary items, and checking my blood glucose is just a pain, but that image of my grandfather — and of some of the patients I met on dialysis who left each session in a wheelchair — gives me a compelling reason to stop and take back control of blood sugar. My aunt told me the other day to ask myself this question next time I need to indulge in something sweet: “Is it worth Felesia’s kidney?” Hearing this, I almost always bubble up with guilt, since nothing is worth destroying Felesia’s kidney.
Katie Holland can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.