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Monday, October 11, 2010

Tired of Awareness Campaigns? This One Saved My Life

Steven A. Moll is a prominent attorney in the NYC area. He is the Vice Chairman of the National Kidney Foundation serving greater New York and the Corporate Chairman of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 NYC Kidney Walks. Mr. Moll was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and became involved with the NKF after attending a kick-off lunch for 2006 Kidney Walk. He was deeply inspired by the individuals who spoke at that lunch, and by those who had lost family and friends to kidney disease and those struggling with dialysis.

I don’t know whether you have noticed, but October seems to be health awareness month.  You may know that the National Football League is recognizing October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Did you know that October is also Celiac Awareness Month and National Liver Awareness Month?  The common theme in all of these efforts is to raise awareness of the prevalence of various diseases and the importance of early detection.  I know from first-hand experience just how important early detection can be. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to former pro basketball star Alonzo Mourning, whose willingness to publicly discuss his experience with kidney disease changed my life.

As a long-suffering NY Knicks fan, I never cared much for Alonzo, as he always beat up on the Knicks.  However, one day about seven years ago, I was listening to a radio interview with Alonzo. In addition to talking at length about basketball and his career, Alonzo also spoke about his kidney disease and transplant. As he described the symptoms that he had experienced prior to his diagnosis, I realized that I had almost every one that he mentioned. As a result, I called my doctor and told him that I thought I might have a kidney problem. After numerous tests, I was diagnosed with a rare chronic kidney disease called Alport Syndrome, which causes kidney failure and hearing loss. In addition to requiring a kidney transplant or dialysis to survive kidney failure, I am now on my second pair of hearing aids and my hearing is declining rapidly. Two years ago, I got to meet and spend some time with Alonzo. I thanked him for being so outspoken about his experience with kidney disease. You can visit his website, Zo’s Fund for Life, to see how he continues to promote awareness of the disease.

I can honestly say that but for hearing Alonzo on the radio, it is unlikely that I would have learned of my condition until my kidneys failed. Instead, I have been able to take some degree of control over my condition. After being diagnosed, I changed my diet, started to exercise regularly and began taking six different daily medications. As a result of these actions, I have significantly slowed down the rate of deterioration of my kidneys. I was originally projected to require a transplant by the summer of 2007. Happily, that date has come and gone and now my doctors won’t even predict when I will need dialysis or a transplant.

Despite my diagnosis and hearing loss, I consider myself to be relatively fortunate. 26 million people in the US have kidney disease and most don’t know they have it until their kidneys actually fail and their choices are transplant, dialysis, or death. I am living proof that early detection can make a huge difference in slowing the progression of the disease. I have learned that you do not have to be a professional athlete to raise awareness and make a difference.

Since being diagnosed, I have become involved with the National Kidney Foundation Serving Greater New York. I am currently Vice Chairman of that organization and the Corporate Chair of the 2010 NYC Kidney Walk, which will take place on October 17 at the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan. For information about the Walk, please go to our website. If you are in the NYC metropolitan area, please consider joining us.  We are expecting 6000 walkers, great weather, and we will be walking from the Seaport over the Brooklyn Bridge and back.

If you know anyone who has been impacted by kidney disease, please consider joining us on October 17 at the Walk or making a donation to support the fight against kidney disease and you can help to raise awareness this October as well.

Are you or a loved one dealing with a chronic illness like kidney disease? How do you advocate for yourself? Join the conversation with the WebMD ‘A Patient Voice’ Community.

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 3:32 am