The coming March marks the start of National Kidney Month, a time to promote kidney health, raise awareness of the obstacles facing patients, and advocate for policies that help them as they navigate life with kidney disease.
However, National Kidney Month also means so much more. It is an opportunity to spread awareness of the fact that being on dialysis doesn’t mean having to put your life on hold. You can still pursue a career and do the things you love most, whether that’s traveling, camping, or spending time with family and friends.
At Dialysis Patient Citizens, we are extremely grateful to have advocates from across the nation who demonstrate every day that even while undergoing dialysis, the possibilities for what your life can be are limitless.
Keith Plummer – Saratoga Springs, New York
Keith’s kidney disease diagnosis came suddenly while undergoing surgery to treat kidney cancer. Rather than losing a small part of function in one kidney as he expected, he was left with a single kidney operating at about 20 percent of its full function.
When he began dialysis a decade later, he discovered an unexpected amount of flexibility thanks to home hemodialysis. When he first started home treatments, he was able to work in the morning and then continue working from home while he did his treatments in the afternoon. Now retired, Keith enjoys making a difference as a valuable, vocal advocate for kidney patients everywhere.
William (Bill) Senior III – Trenton, New Jersey
Bill began his dialysis treatments more than 13 years ago, initially doing his treatments at home before switching to in-center hemodialysis. While Bill received comprehensive coverage through his wife’s employer-provided plan, he had to switch to Medigap for his primary plan after 30 months.
Since becoming a DPC patient advocate, Bill has played an active part in pushing for legislative reforms to help kidney patients. He has traveled to Washington, D.C. several times as part of our annual fly-ins, and provides an invaluable perspective for legislators on what they can do to support the kidney care community.
Darren Lyons – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
When Darren found out he needed to begin dialysis treatments, his life felt like one health crisis after another. In February 2017, he had received a below-knee amputation and shortly afterward began undergoing rehabilitation to adjust to his prosthetic. By October, his doctors told Darren his kidneys were failing.
For Darren, this was the starting point for writing his book. He wrote about navigating his own struggles in the hope that it could help others, and that desire to help led him to become an inspirational speaker. Now, he works as a coach and trainer, and has also authored another book. He’s also an active advocate with DPC, meeting with several legislators to speak not just as a way to share his own journey, but also to build on the work he does to help others.
Michelle Martinez – Alice, Texas
Michelle’s experience as a donor began with a scary incident at home, when her husband appeared ashen gray and struggled to breathe. As soon as he started on dialysis, he and Michelle began doing everything possible to get him ready for a transplant. A few months later, they discovered she was a match, the culmination of what she calls a “beautiful journey.”
Since donating her kidney, Michelle has worked as a grant writer and worked to ensure both dialysis patients and living donors can access the resources and education they need. She and her family know firsthand that adjusting to life with kidney disease can be disorienting, but they also understand as well as any just how much patients and their families can achieve.
Jennifer McClung – Springville, California
Jennifer was younger than most when she was first diagnosed with kidney disease – just 16 years old. She had gone to the hospital for an enlarged heart and by the end of the night was on dialysis. The complication with her kidney also had other effects, leading to a partial loss of her vision and hearing.
After 17 years on dialysis Jennifer received a transplant, but that was just the start of the next phase of her life. She believes that her experiences happened for a reason, and now she advocates to help kidney patients across the country. Having gone through so much, she feels she can better understand what other patients experience, and ultimately be a more effective voice on their behalf.
James (Hap) Strunk – Whitley City, Kentucky
When he was diagnosed with kidney disease in 1987, Hap had an eight-month-old son and was completing the purchase of his funeral home, a scary experience for any family to go through. He started dialysis treatments in 1995 and received a transplant the next year, though he had to restart dialysis in 2000 when his transplant kidney failed. He’s continued with the treatments ever since.
Being back on dialysis hasn’t deterred from Hap’s career, however. He continues to operate the funeral home he purchased when he was diagnosed, and has even served as chairman of the Kentucky Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. In that time, he has also become a strong advocate for kidney patients and their families.
Having kidney disease comes with its own unique challenges, but those challenges are far surpassed by the opportunities patients have to lead a fulfilling life, pursue a dream career, and do whatever it is that makes them happy.
We hope you all have a wonderful National Kidney Month! If you would like to get involved like any of the advocates above, feel free to reach out through https://www.dialysispatients.org/about/contact/.