Kidney health and kidney transplantation are a super-important issue for me.
I know that may be hard for you to believe if you’re at regular at Fried On Business – I say facetiously. After all, I spent four years searching for and finally finding a kidney for my wife Vivian.
That was by the grace of G-d and the donor Betty Demartini – and the social media leverage provided by Fried On Business.
So when a worthy event like the Miami Kidney Walk comes to my attention, it’s my privilege to highlight it.
Walk Director Zoe Plasencia came into the studio to explain that the National Kidney Foundation hosts 10 walks annually in Florida. The March 17 event at Doral Park starts with registration at 8 a.m. and the walk at 9 a.m.
The atmosphere will be light, not competitive at all, she said. Feel free to come out with strollers for the little ones and a wheelchair if you need it.
The course is three miles, she said, but a shorter route is available.
It’s a wonderful event, Zoe said, not just for the money raised for kidney patients but also for the stories told. Like the father who received a life-saving kidney donation from his daughter on Father’s Day.
All money raised goes back to the patients. They raised $75,000 last year and are hoping for $100,000 this year.
“It’s not about kidney disease. It’s about patients that are surviving, like your wife and like Joyce, and who are kicking this disease in the butt and just saying, ‘You know what, I’m strong. I’m empowered, and I can keep going. That’s the really special thing about this walk,” she said.
More on Joyce in a minute, but I had to ask Zoe about the specific needs that a kidney patient might have.
She said proceeds from the event go to:
1. Patient direct aid. This pays for things like rent, food, and transportation to dialysis.
2. The Hawthorne Fund, which helps to pay for medications for transplant patients. They can qualify for up to $1,000 per month in assistance.
3. Help with kidney screenings. It’s a KEEP – a Kidney Early Evaluation Program that is open to the community. One out of three people are at risk for kidney disease, Zoe said, due to high blood pressure, a history of kidney disease or diabetes, being over age 60, and being Hispanic or African-American.
People don’t realize how much meds cost. Vivian and I pay $2,500 a month just for health insurance. Medicare kicks in after that, and I still have to pay $300 a month for the medication that keeps her alive.
By the way, the first thing they ask when you’re being interviewed for acceptance into a kidney transplant program is whether you have the means to pay the co-pay on follow-up medications.
Why? Because, frankly, they don’t want to waste a kidney.
We threw two fundraisers to supplement our income, because the search for a donor kept me from working. So whether you’re upper class or lower class in terms of income, it doesn’t matter. When kidney disease strikes, it takes you down. You need help. You need a community.
Zoe said most people don’t realize how important their kidneys are. They filter 200 quarts of blood a day. Kidney disease is a silent killer because people don’t discover there’s a problem until they’re in end-stage failure.
She added that some 94,000 patients are waiting for a transplant nationally, with more than 4,800 in Florida. About 29,000 patients on dialysis in this state.
Now, let’s talk on the level for a moment. A lot of people won’t be willing to be tested as a potential living kidney donor. And only 10 percent of those tested are going to be suitable anyway. You basically have to be in perfect health.
But, everyone can give – some of their money and some of their time – to help someone who is running out of both.
Hope in a bottle
Every kidney recipient is a miracle, but Joyce Griffith has a unique story. She came into the studio to tell us about it.
Three years ago, Joyce decided to write a note about her need of a kidney transplant, put it in a bottle and toss it into a nearby waterway.
She did a lot more, mind you, to find a donor. But a year later someone found that bottle. The person who found it had a friend who worked at the Cleveland Clinic – in the kidney transplant unit!
From that moment forward, everything happened in 3’s.
Joyce was called into the clinic about three months later. The third potential kidney was found to be suitable, and she had a successful transplant on July 3.
She’s had no problems since – not even a need for pain medication.
“I realized that, of course, my God was orchestrating this thing from the very beginning,” she said. “It was the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. He was with me from the very beginning, and I didn’t realize it.”
Her message to everyone on dialysis is simple: Keep the faith. Never, ever, ever give up!
“I’ve always been one of these positive persons. I never thought about anything negative. When I signed up (for dialysis), I never thought about it. I took it to my altar, and I left it there.”
She’s been celebrating life ever since her transplant, including a trip to Europe. But the most important blessing, frankly, is simply being able to pee. Don’t take that for granted, people, because dialysis patients would give anything to visit a bathroom.
Joyce was a joy to interview, and she’s a glowing testimony of what can happen when a living kidney donor is willing to give the gift of life.
Click here to listen to the conversation.