ZEELAND, Mich. — March is Kidney Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of kidney disease. According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney disease is the leading killer in the U.S.
Part of the problem is a majority who have kidney disease, don’t know they have it, or the toll it can take on your body.
I’ve learned firsthand what a dying kidney can do to a person. My sister Rachelle Pike is a working mom who loves to laugh and loves time with her family even more. But behind her bright persona, is a battle that most can’t see, severe kidney disease.
A mostly smooth pregnancy turned into a nightmare, moments after delivering her son Benton.
“My liver, my kidneys, everything was just shutting down, and I was really just fighting for my life,” Pike said.
Separated from her newborn, Rachelle was rushed from Zeeland to Grand Rapids, barely holding onto consciousness.
She spent three weeks in the hospital, a majority of that time in the ICU. Her liver function eventually returned, but her kidney function did not.
“We were supposed to be home, bonding with our son,” Pike said. “We were supposed to be enjoying those moments, and we didn’t have them. “
Now needing dialysis just to survive at the age of 30, the
treatment took its toll on this new mom.
“I felt terrible 90 % of the time,” Pike said. “I always had to have someone over, because I thought I was going to drop him.”
Today, Rachelle’s kidneys operate at about 30 percent of what they should, but it’s an immense improvement from the 10 percent function they had while still on dialysis. Her case is rare because most who have to start dialysis, never come off it. Others aren’t even aware that they have it before it’s too late.
“The problem is the kidneys can be declining and you don’t really have symptoms until that end-stage,” Dr. R Michael Hofmann, MD Nephrology Specialist said.
One in nine adults have chronic kidney disease and nine in ten that do have it, don’t even know it according to the National Kidney Foundation. Not catching it early on can lead to waste build-up in the blood, weak bones, nerve damage, and even death.
“A lot of times when people have more advanced kidney disease, they start feeling tired, fatigued,” Dr. Hofmann said. “Some people may know that their urine looks kind of foamy like it's bubbly.”
According to Dr. Hoffman, the disease is usually caused by someone having diabetes or high blood pressure. “If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, try to make sure that gets controlled because if not, it's gonna put you at risk for your kidneys to get worse, “ Dr. Hoffman said.
Today Rachelle takes a slew of medications to keep her kidney disease at bay. She battles daily migraines and intense nausea at times, not knowing if or when she’ll need a transplant. But she counts herself blessed to be here and to see her boy grow.
Other signs that your kidneys may not be operating at 100 percent? Trouble sleeping, swollen feet and ankles, poor appetite, and muscle cramping are just a few signs. Again experts say these on their own may not seem alarming, but if they are persistent, see a doctor.