A boomer’s countdown to a new kidney

BoomerCafé is about baby boomers with active lifestyles, right? So a story from a boomer facing a kidney transplant might not seem like a good fit. But it is, because as you’ll see plainly enough from the photos, Gary Kaye of Oxford, Connecticut, normally the chief content officer for tech50plus.com, is an active baby boomer. So we think his blog is worth reading. He calls it, Countdown to a Kidney.

Just about everyone I know has a favorite time of year. It could be Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or a birthday. The one event I look forward to most each year is my Fall foliage biking trip with my son, Max. We’ve been doing it for 22 years. But not this year. Next month, we’re going on a different kind of adventure. Max will be donating a kidney to me. What do you say about a son who is willing to give up a part of his body to keep his old man alive? How do I sufficiently express my love, gratitude, and admiration for what he’s doing? The words just don’t seem adequate.

Gary with son Max.

Gary with son Max.

Several friends have suggested that there may be other people interested in my story. So, I’ve decided to write about how I got here, and what I’m going through. I’m also working with the National Kidney Foundation to spread the word about the prevalence of kidney disease and the desperate need for organ donations.

kidney-foundation-squaire-200x200According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 26 million adult Americans suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease. Most don’t know it.

Here are some facts:

  • Once the kidneys fail, dialysis or a kidney transplant is required to survive.
  • More than 661,000 Americans have kidney failure. Of these, 468,000 individuals are on dialysis and approximately 193,000 live with a functioning kidney transplant.
  • According to the latest figures (April of 2016), more than 100,000 await kidney transplants. Fewer than 17,000 people actually receive one each year.
  • More than 3,000 people are added to the kidney transplant list each month.
  • Every day, 13 people die waiting for a kidney.

The primary causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. With 29-million Americans suffering from diabetes (8 million undiagnosed), the numbers are only going to get worse.

gary_sailboat

I have suffered from Type II diabetes for more than thirty years. Most likely because of lifestyle, food, lack of exercise, and minor genetic pre-disposition. When I was first diagnosed, I will admit I didn’t take it nearly as seriously as I should have. I took the meds, but made few changes in lifestyle or diet. For the next two decades things only got worse. I suffered from what’s called diabetic retinopathy, which resulted in temporary blindness and required extensive laser treatments. I worked long hours and overnight shifts that only exacerbated the deterioration.

Gary Kaye

Gary Kaye

About five years ago I was told my kidney function was down to 15% of normal and that the progressive nature of kidney disease was such that it was almost a certainty that eventually my kidneys would fail. While my doctor wouldn’t predict how long before that would happen, his guess was that it could happen within five years. After closely monitoring my numbers, he suggested to me in the late winter of this year that I attend a program called “Kidney Smart,” run by DaVita. The class ran a couple of hours and included folks suffering from early stage kidney disease as well as those suffering End Stage Renal Failure (that’s me). The nurse reviewed dietary issues and medication, but primarily focused on the “what happens next?” She detailed the two primary forms of treatment: dialysis and transplant. I wasn’t thrilled with what lay behind door number one, or door number two.

But I’ve already given away the choice I ultimately made. I’ll let you know if I was right.

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2 Comments on "A boomer’s countdown to a new kidney"

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Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt
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Sobering statistics. I didn’t realize so few people get a kidney.

It reminds me to watch my diet, and keep the blood pressure down – not bad things to be reminded of!

Best of luck.

R DeRagon
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I have a dear 42 year old friend waiting for a kidney. Unlike some, she has always taken good care of herself. In her case, her immune system decided to attack her kidneys. She receives dialysis 5 nights a week, and will for the rest of her life, unless someone can provide the right kidney. I would have given both of mine to her gladly- she is an amazing, generous, self sacrificing, gentle soul who deserves to live out a fantastic life. (I have certain health issues that have made me ineligible). Thank you for helping spread awareness of this… Read more »
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