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Kidney warrior lives by phrase “awareness creates change”

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Ashley Somics, Channels Staff

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With the bar at full capacity; all eyes were on me as I belted out Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” I live for karaoke, but this time I was hosting a kidney health awareness fundraiser I coordinated called “Karaoke for a Cause.”

Kidney failure is an issue that affects over 661,000 Americans, including myself, so I started “Karaoke for Kidneys” to bring awareness to kidney health. I found it my duty as a kidney warrior to educate the public with the hope that I could be a part of preventing more people from being diagnosed, even if my part is small.

I received my first kidney transplant in August of 1999 from my mom, which lasted for 18 years. I got my second transplant on Sept. 28, 2016 with the help of a friend willing to donate and the amazing UCLA Kidney Exchange Program. Without a living kidney donor, I would have had to wait 10 years while dialysis for a deceased donor kidney.

This second time around was a complete eye opener. I didn’t have anyone waiting in the wings automatically wanting to give me a kidney. On my journey to finding a living donor I realized how little people know about kidney health and living kidney donation.

My motto became “awareness creates change” and I knew that I had to both create the awareness and be the change in the beginning.

As terrifying as it was to speak to a large crowd about my battle with kidney failure, it by no means matched the health struggles I’ve endured over the last twenty-one years as a kidney warrior.

Diagnosed with kidney failure as a result of Lupus at age 11, it became necessary for me to begin three hour dialysis treatments three days a week to have toxins and fluid removed from my body by a machine.

Most people on dialysis will agree that unless you have lived through it yourself, you don’t know how hard it is.

With kidney failure, your entire world is flipped upside-down, and diet plays a huge part in that. Fluid must be restricted to 32 ounces a day and sodium, potassium and phosphorus all must remain low in consumption.

With that, I started “Karaoke for a Cause,” now called “Karaoke for Kidneys,” as a way to bring attention to kidney health, donation and the need for more living donors as well as the dedicated work of the National Kidney Foundation.

To me, this event is a celebration of life. I’m still here because two amazing people in my life were willing to give a piece of themselves to help me. How can you not celebrate that? And what better way to celebrate life than to sing your out-of-tune version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin”?

Not everyone is eligible for transplant or has the gift of a living donor. Some are in fact on dialysis for life. A kidney transplant is not a cure either. Some transplants last minutes, some months, others many years, but certainly not forever.

My hope with Karaoke for Kidneys is that more people will understand the importance of kidney health. Kidney failure does not discriminate, it can affect anyone at any age, and can be brought on by a multitude of reasons. It doesn’t always show symptoms early on either, and when they do show up, the damage has already been done.

The best thing you can do to start taking care of your kidneys is to get their function tested annually with a simple urine or blood test. The key to ending the increase in people being diagnosed with kidney failure is awareness and prevention.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.
Kidney warrior lives by phrase “awareness creates change”