WORLD KIDNEY DAY: Donors needed to help save patients with kidney disease

Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 11:00 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – March 10 is recognized as World Kidney Day, and in the U.S. the month is also National Kidney Month.

The National Kidney Foundation says kidney disease affects 1 in 7 adults in the U.S.

“Kidney disease is one of those things that you don’t really have a lot of symptoms of until it’s a little too late,” said Dr. Andrea G. Kattah, Mayo Clinic, a nephrologist.

The function of the kidney is to remove chemicals and waste from the blood. The waste leaves the body when people use the restroom. When the kidney does not function properly, problems evolve and patients may have to spend hours on a dialysis machine that removes toxins from the blood since the kidney cannot.

“Currently 120,000 people are on the kidney transplant waitlist [nationally],” Kattah said. “The average wait time for people that are on the kidney transplant waitlist is between three and five years for an organ. That’s a long time.”

Two years ago, Rochester resident, Jim Blum, spent hours holding a sign, asking the community to donate him a kidney.

“They [people] wanted to give me money I said, ‘no, I just want a kidney,’” he said. “Thank God it worked if not, I’d still be out there on the road.”

Blum had end-stage kidney disease, which means his kidney failure was at an advanced stage.

“I kind of refer to myself as a cat with nine lives. I had lung cancer and they gave me chemo. The chemo slowly killed the kidney,” he said.

He’d spent four hours at a time hooked up to a dialysis machine.

“Having to lay down a lot. Usually, I’m a very active person, and that kind of took that away. When I was trying to be active but yet my body was saying ‘no,’” he said.

Kattah said kidney disease most commonly affects men and people around 50 or 60 years old.

She said there are steps people can take to keep their kidneys healthy.

“Really the advice I give to everyone, which is good to yourself. Try to exercise. Try to eat healthily. By that I mean eat fruits and veggies and stay away from processed foods that have a lot of salt and a lot of additives that are not great for your kidney health,” Kattah said.

She urges anyone with healthy kidneys to consider being a donor.

“There is no greater physical exam and evaluation for a potential donor for a Kidney,” Kattah said. “If you have good healthy Kidneys, and have no other serious health conditions, then you can live a long and healthy life with just one kidney.”

Blum wants people to know that donating can truly save a life.

“You hear things like, ‘I’ve been waiting for a kidney this long or that long.’ And they don’t look very good... and you’re kind of thinking in the back of your head, ‘I wonder if they’re going to make it’s and it’s a reality, a very cold-hearted reality,” he said.

Click here to learn more about the Mayo Clinic donor program.

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