VOL. 129 | NO. 95 | Thursday, May 15, 2014
Take Back Your Health on Memphis Kidney Action Day
THOMAS JONES | Special to The Daily News
“What you don’t know won’t hurt you” is a popular saying today. While that may be true in some cases, when it comes to your health, the opposite is true. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that when it comes to kidney disease, what you don’t know can actually put your health in grave danger.
Kidney disease is known as a silent killer because many times it will creep up on you, silently, without presenting any symptoms until it’s too late.
Here in Memphis, the rate at which people develop chronic kidney disease is much higher than the national average. Even if you don’t know it or have any symptoms, you could be at risk for kidney disease. This devastating condition is a serious health threat in our community, and it’s time for Memphians to get serious about their health and find out if they are at risk.
It’s estimated that as many as 31 million people in the United States are living with chronic kidney disease, most often as a result of having either diabetes or high blood pressure, the two leading causes of kidney disease. Yet, because it has few symptoms in the early stages, many people who have kidney disease don’t know they have it. I was one of them.
In 1992, I was 21 years old with my entire future ahead of me when I was diagnosed with kidney disease as result of high blood pressure. I didn’t realize that high blood pressure could cause such devastating damage to the point that my kidneys would fail. I will never forget the sinking feeling I had when my doctor told me that I was headed into kidney failure and would need dialysis in order to survive.
Today I am 43 and have been on dialysis for more than half of my life. Like many, I had no idea that two kidneys, each the size of a fist, could turn my life upside down and that my kidney failure can’t be reversed. The good news is that in many cases, kidney disease is preventable. As a patient-advocate with the American Kidney Fund, I work to raise awareness about kidney disease in the Memphis community and encourage my neighbors, friends and congregation to eat a healthy diet low in fat and sodium, exercise and learn if they’re at risk for the disease. In March, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in American Kidney Fund’s Kidney Action Day on Capitol Hill and spoke with my members of Congress about kidney disease in our community. Now, it’s time for my fellow residents in Memphis to join together and take action to help protect our health.
Start by joining me at the American Kidney Fund’s Kidney Action Day on Saturday, May 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Salvation Army Kroc Center in Memphis. During Kidney Action Day, I will join Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, state Rep. Johnnie Turner and other patient-advocates to raise awareness of kidney disease in Memphis. This event is an important step in taking control of your health. It’s free, open to the public and will feature healthy food samples, entertainment and fitness demos.
Most importantly, Kidney Action Day will offer free kidney health screenings to anyone 18 and older. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of kidney disease, it’s very important to be tested.
I hope you will join me on May 17 and take a step forward in protecting your health. I encourage all Memphians to learn the risks, get tested and help spread the word about kidney disease. To learn more, visit the American Kidney Fund’s website at www.kidneyfund.org. Let’s fight kidney disease together.
Thomas Jones of Memphis is a patient-advocate with the American Kidney Fund, www.kidneyfund.org. In March, Thomas was chosen to participate in AKF’s Kidney Action Day on Capitol Hill where he spoke to members of Congress about kidney disease awareness and education.