ANN ARBOUR, Mich. – As a college student and athlete at University of MichiganRita White was always busy.
“I was very athletic,” White said. “I was involved in volleyball and athletics. I was pretty much active in a lot of sports.
“At that time I was doing quite well in terms of my health, but it was around my senior year that I noticed symptoms which then brought my health to my attention.”
One of those symptoms was fatigue. She blamed it on her rigorous schedule.
White would go on to graduate from the University of Michigan, then Wayne State University Law School in 2001. It was only then that her doctor noticed a problem during a routine urine screening.
“They did a urine test and they noticed there was blood in my urine, and they found it was related to kidney failure,” White said. “You know, it wasn’t really a big deal because it was so mild. Initially, I wasn’t put on kidney medication for kidney stability, and so basically I was just monitoring my kidneys and I was maintained.
There are different stages of chronic kidney disease. White was in the early stages – the first stage.
Dr. Silas Norman is a nephrologist at Michigan Medicine. He is not White’s doctor, but he said many of his patients’ stories resembled White’s.
“One of the challenges with chronic kidney disease is that until it’s quite advanced, there really aren’t any symptoms, which is why you end up seeing only 9-10 people with kidney failure aren’t aware of it,” Norman said. “When chronic kidney disease becomes very advanced, people may feel more tired, experience insomnia, develop itchy skin.”
Norman said there are things you can do to keep your kidneys healthy.
“The leading causes of kidney disease in this country are diabetes and high blood pressure,” Norman said. “That’s almost seven out of 10 cases of chronic kidney disease that we see. Diabetes and high blood pressure can really be affected by lifestyle changes, so healthy eating, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight are very effective in reducing the effects of high blood pressure and, hence, reducing the risk of chronic kidney disease.
White developed both high blood pressure and high cholesterol. As the years went by and her condition worsened, she started dialysis in 2018 at home, with the help of her husband. Then, last year, she received a kidney transplant.
She has this advice for anyone willing to listen to her: “Focus on your body and focus on how you feel. If you hear positive things about what to eat and what’s healthy, take note, because it really matters what you get into your body.
The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan works to raise awareness about kidney disease. The organization’s biggest fundraiser will take place on Saturday, April 2 at the Motor City Casino Hotel in Detroit. The Kidney Ball starts at 6 p.m. Click here to buy tickets.
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