Ask the Doctor
Questions about kidney disease? Risk factors? Signs and symptoms? Are you concerned about yourself, a friend or family member? Ask Dr. Spry.
Joe Smith, 41, of Raleigh, is a proprietor of a commercial construction company and a weekend warrior who's getting in shape for a 1,000 mile bike ride this summer. Just a few years ago, he had to rely on a dialysis machine to clean his blood three times a week and would never have dreamed he'd ever be able to attempt such a feat.
Smith will participate July 9-30 in the Great Divide Bike Ride that runs from Banff in the Canadian Rockies through Montana and Yellowstone National Park. He's eager to challenge himself physically and is also taking the opportunity to raise awareness about the National Kidney Foundation and the importance of knowing risk factors for kidney disease and getting tested.
Smith's story began when he was in the U.S. Navy at age 22 and learned that he had high blood pressure from a routine physical. He was given a few lifestyle changes to make, but at that age, he felt invincible and paid no attention to medical advice.
He didn't connect high blood pressure with kidney failure until years later when he experienced flu-like symptoms coupled with vision problems. The optometrist said he couldn't help and sent him for blood work. It turned out that the high blood pressure affected both his vision and his kidneys and the lab personnel sent him straight to a kidney specialist. It was in there that he heard the devastating news--he was already in stage 5 chronic kidney disease.
A college student with a trucking company on the side, he began dialysis immediately. A few months later, he received a kidney from his dad which lasted about four years. Then in 2004, after three years of dialysis, he was lucky enough to receive a new kidney. "I distinctly remember getting the phone call at 3 am when nurses told me they might have a kidney for me. They said go back to sleep, but of course, I was up all night waiting and hoping." His second transplant surgery went off without a hitch and his health has been fine ever since. Smith has stepped up his fitness routine and trains for the Great Divide Bike Ride by riding 30 miles three or four times a week and supplementing the rides with a CrossFit exercise regimen and volleyball as well.
"For many people, kidney failure is not something they're destined to get. If you pay attention to your health, catch the symptoms early and know your risk factors, you may be able to prevent kidney damage. That's the message I want to send to the 1 in 3 Americans at risk for kidney disease. You can make positive changes for your health that can delay or prevent kidney failure."
Smith will be posting updates and sharing news of his ride via Facebook and is urging others to support his efforts by raising funds for the National Kidney Foundation. Contributions can be made online byclicking here.