Your Kidneys and You

Written by Nathan Donald

Chronic Kidney Disease currently affects over 37 million Americans. Sadly, nine out of 10 impacted are completely unaware since it is typically a silent disease, which means no symptoms are present until it’s progressed to an advanced stage. My name is Nathan Donald, a District Executive Director for the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, and I was one of the 90% who was completely unaware I had kidney disease until it was nearly too late.

In July 2017, my wife, Ashley, and I were in the midst of adopting our now three beautiful children. Part of that process included completing a routine annual physical. We were not prepared for the results of that check-up. I was diagnosed with Stage 5 Kidney Disease with my kidneys functioning at only 10%. After my diagnosis, my doctor informed me that I would need either dialysis or a transplant within a mere couple of months because my kidney function was at a critically low level. My initial reaction was fear and uncertainty as we worked to process my diagnosis. 

I am thankful to share that from that uncertainty, God showed up and provided a plan and a miracle. First, my doctor and renal nutritionist advised me to immediately adopt a kidney-friendly diet, which included food that was low in protein, sodium, phosphorous and potassium.  As a part of this diet, I ate a lot of rice, lean protein once a day, and increased my fruit and vegetable intake.

Though the diet was restrictive, it helped to keep me from needing dialysis even after I developed severe symptoms such as swelling in my feet and ankles, fatigue, and muscle cramps at night. The diet ensured my kidneys weren’t enduring additional stress, which ultimately maintained their limited functionality.

The second provision was my sister-in-law, Ashley (yes, both my wife and sister-in-law are named Ashley, and they have both been a godsend in my life), who did something miraculous: she donated one of her kidneys to me on February 5, 2018. Her gift to me that day was such an incredible blessing and from day one has been life-sustaining. My transplant surgeons described the kidney as a “jet engine” that fired up and immediately brought my body back to good health. Since then, my health has had its share of ups and downs, but that is typical in the immediate aftermath of a transplant. With each step, though, I have been surrounded by an amazing medical team from INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, as well as family and friends who continue to lift me up in prayer and love to sustain my spirit, mind and body. Now, three years later, I am doing great and am blessed to be an advocate for kidney health.

In this effort, I urge you to learn more about your kidneys. As many as 1 in 3 may be at an increased risk of developing kidney disease. Common causes are diabetes and high blood pressure. “Are You the 33%?” is the National Kidney Foundation’s campaign to further educate the public to help with early diagnosis and treatment. This effort includes a one-minute quiz to determine if you have any of the risk factors. Taking one minute out of your day to complete the quiz can help with early detection and treatment to keep you from being a part of the 90% who don’t know they have kidney disease until it’s almost too late.

I am excited to share that the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City is partnering with the National Kidney Foundation for an upcoming free event: Your Kidneys and You. Please join me and heart your kidneys by registering and attending this free and virtual presentation at 12 p.m. on Thursday, March 25. Click here to register.

I hope you will join me then and learn how to protect your kidneys!

This article has been updated to reflect a change in the presentation date.

Nathan Donald is a district executive director for the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City.

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