By Eric Dolby
Eric Dolby suffered from kidney failure at age 37 and has been on dialysis for seven years. He is currently a patient-advocate with the American Kidney Fund (AKF). Eric was awarded the “Hero of Hope” by AKF in October for his efforts to educate others in his community about kidney disease awareness. This month Eric will return to Washington, D.C. for AKF’s 4th Annual Advocate Fly-In where he will talk to members of Congress about the importance of kidney disease awareness.
We are all too familiar with the dashboard warning light telling you it’s time to take care of your car. Have you ever wished that life had unmistakable warning signs, especially when it comes to your health? What is so frightening about kidney disease, the “silent killer,” is that in early stages, there are virtually no warning signs or symptoms — no warning lights. But there are risk factors, and knowing them can save your life.
As a registered nurse, I knew the risk factors of kidney disease: diabetes, hypertension and having a family history of the disease. The first kidney disease warning sign in my life was having a family history of the disease – 12 of my cousins currently live with end stage renal disease (ESRD) and 13 aunts and uncles who had ESRD have passed away.
My second warning sign was a diagnosis of uncontrollable melatonin hypertension in 2000. I heeded these warning signs, and I made positive changes to live a healthy lifestyle. For years, I consistently exercised, ate healthfully and took medications to control my blood pressure, but it was too late. In 2005 at age 37, the silent killer was knocking on my door. My kidneys failed, and I knew life was never going to be the same again. These days I spend three nights a week, from 8:15 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., at the dialysis center hooked up onto hemodialysis, which is a treatment that filters waste products out of my blood.
While living with kidney disease has affected my life in ways I never knew possible, I’ve learned nothing is impossible and together we can win the fight against this silent killer through kidney disease education and prevention. As a patient-advocate for the American Kidney Fund, I am turning my disability into an opportunity to educate others in my community who are at-risk for kidney disease. With as many as 31 million Americans with kidney disease and as the ninth leading cause of death in the United States, I believe it’s important for people to know that this silent killer is often preventable. In March 2011, I traveled to Washington, D.C., and spoke with my Congressman about the importance of kidney disease awareness and education. And I will be returning to the nation’s capitol again this month, as part of National Kidney Month, to continue encouraging people to learn if they are at risk and to take preventative measures.
My grandfather use to say to me, “Once you have gained knowledge, you are responsible for what you choose to do with that knowledge.” His words still resonate with me today as I live my life with kidney disease and I hope they will with you too. I hope my story has inspired you to take charge of your kidney health by remembering the risk factors of kidney disease and getting your kidneys checked. Together we can overcome this silent killer.