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American Kidney Fund hosts fun event to combat disease


Kidney Action Day alerts Prince Georgians to ‘silent’ disease

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Photo by Kayla Faria. Kidney Action Day attendees take laps around the indoor track to raise awareness of kidney disease Saturday at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex.

Photo by Kayla Faria. Kidney Action Day attendees take laps around the indoor track to raise awareness of kidney disease Saturday at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex.

Published on: Wednesday, June 26, 2013

By Kayla Faria

State Sen. Joanne Benson said she didn’t know if her sister — hospitalized with kidney disease — was going to “make it through” Friday night. Benson walked under an arch of bright blue and green balloons Saturday afternoon at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex.

Hosted by the American Kidney Fund, Kidney Action Day featured a walkathon, free health screenings, dancing performances, exercise activities, cooking demonstrations, information tables, high-profile political speakers and personal stories to educate, prevent and raise awareness about the disease that affects 31 million Americans.

“When your kidney goes, everything shuts down,” Benson said. The senator’s sister had a kidney transplant in 2000.

Photo by Kayla Faria. American Kidney Fund volunteer Marta Zelaya gets ready to draw blood from the arm of Sidney Wray, 72, of Suitland, on Saturday as part of Kidney Action Day at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex.

Photo by Kayla Faria. American Kidney Fund volunteer Marta Zelaya gets ready to draw blood from the arm of Sidney Wray, 72, of Suitland, on Saturday as part of Kidney Action Day at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex.

“The next four days will determine whether or not my sister survives,” she said. “I cannot express to each of you in this room, how important it is — how important it is — to be tested for kidney disease. It is urgent. It is absolutely critical.”

Kidney disease is the ninth-leading cause of death in the U.S, according to a handout published by the American Kidney Fund. And the only way to know how a person’s kidneys are working is to get a blood or urine test.

“It’s a silent disease, and it progresses very far without any real symptoms,” American Kidney Fund CEO LaVarne Burton said.

Kidney donor Anthony Brown is all too familiar with the “silent killer.” He donated a kidney to his mother Rita in April, but her health tests indicated the issue much earlier.

“Ten years ago my mother went to the doctor’s office (and) they told her that her creatinine number was a three,” he said. “At a creatinine level of three, you already have 50 percent function of your kidney.”

In the packed gymnasium, only one woman raised her hand to indicate that she knew about the correlation.

Nine of 10 people who have moderately decreased kidney function do not know they have it, according to the fund’s handout.

Symptoms can range from stomach sickness, tiredness, dizziness, back pain, high blood pressure, swelling in the hands, feet or face, a change in urination frequency and bloody, foamy or dark-colored urine.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney disease, which makes the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area — with high incidence levels of diabetes and hypertension — one of the highest rates of kidney failure in the country, Burton said. 

“The rate of kidney disease in the county is more than twice the national average, so if you live here in Prince George’s County, either you may end up with (some) sort of kidney disease or you probably know someone who has kidney disease,” said County Councilwoman Andrea Harrison, District 5.

More than 91,000 people died of kidney failure in 2010, according to the fund’s handout. But the disease is not unavoidable.

“Kidney disease and kidney failure are not inevitable,” Burton said. “This is a disease that can be beat.”

Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md.-4, emphasized the importance of eating right and exercising. Her father died of kidney disease.

“Let’s fight!” Edwards shouted before jogging around the track a few times during the walkathon.

“When we end this, we make sure that our young people grow up healthy and happy and productive in all of our communities,” she said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests preparing foods with less sodium and phosphorous and eating heart-healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, fish, beans and skinless poultry to improve kidney health.

Food educators from Healthy Living Inc. were serving pasta plates and blending frozen berries, bananas and mangos with apple juice to make creamy, sugarless desserts.

Sweat-N-Go’s Regie Thornton, of Forestville, led “Seat Beat,” a seated fitness routine. Attendees were raising their knees and extending their arms after watching performances by the Making Moves Dance Collective.

“Activity produces longevity,” Thornton said.

“Anybody can move,” he said. “Even if you’re not able to walk.”

Sidney Wray, 72, of Suitland, hitched a ride to the event with his daughters.   

“I needed a kidney function test,” Wray said. “I’m amazed at this organization and how quick and efficient these personnel are, yes, in and out, and bedside manners — quite wonderful.”

The American Kidney Fund provided more than $5.8 million in treatment-related assistance to kidney patients in the District and Maryland in 2012, according to the fund’s handout.

Still, the organization’s “Pair Up Promise,” asking people to “Do the Math” is not about finance. It’s a pledge anyone can sign to add healthy choices, subtract choices that contribute to diabetes and high blood pressure and multiply awareness by spreading the word to fight and prevent kidney disease.

Brown urged attendees to take such proactive measures and “front run these diseases” beyond Kidney Action Day.

“Take control of your destiny. Don’t let this one day be the end of it,” Brown said. “It’s an ongoing battle for your health and you have to take it seriously.”

“Our families and our communities, they need us,” Harrison said.

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