To help raise awareness about kidney disease among high-risk individuals who can’t afford a doctor, The National Kidney Foundation created KEEP: The Kidney Early Evaluation Program, a pop-up kidney disease screening site where participants receive a comprehensive health risk appraisal, blood pressure measurement, as well as blood and urine testing.
“Identifying individuals who are at risk for chronic kidney disease has a tremendous benefit in raising awareness and helping those who have the disease get access to the right type of treatment much more quickly than if they had waited until a sign or symptom showed itself,” says Dr. Becker, who sites odd aches and pains, difficulty concentrating and abnormal fatigue and sleep patterns as common symptoms of kidney malfunction. “A quarter of the people who appear to be most at risk usually end up having kidney disease. If they choose to be screened, individuals must feel comfortable with the fact that they may gain health information that they don’t want to know.”
Dr. Becker also wants people to know that kidney disease is not a death sentence. In fact, it’s treatable, manageable and doesn’t have to completely alter one’s lifestyle. Superstar athletes Sean Elliot and Alonzo Mourning are great examples of people who continued to lead a very active lifestyle both on and off the court before even getting their transplants. More recently, actor/entrepreneur Nick Cannon was hospitalized for “mild kidney failure” before getting released and returning to work.
“There is no reason that patients with chronic kidney disease can’t engage in significant activities,” says Dr. Becker. “We actually recommend that people with kidney failure or who are on dialysis be as active as they possibly can. They need to keep their muscles working and their metabolism as improved as possible, because if the person ends up needing a transplant, we want them healthy and fit.”
Fortunately, for Osborne, that fateful trip to the emergency room came just in the nick of time; he’s been able to manage his kidney disease without needing a transplant or dialysis. He’s also seen a vast improvement in his weight, cholesterol and kidney function with the help of a well-balanced diet, regular exercise and a few medications, including the steroid prednisone.
“I’m much healthier and able to keep up with my one-year-old son,” he says. “I hope more people will start to take responsibility for their health. If you know you aren’t feeling well; you’ve got family members on dialysis; or diabetes and hypertension runs in your family, get up off your butt and go get tested. You might just save your life.”
For additional information, check out the National Kidney Foundation’s 10 facts about African-Americans and kidney disease.