Kidney disease can go undetected in early stages, which is why the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois is in the middle of a year-long campaign to address high rates of the illness in Black, Hispanic and Asian communities statewide.
“Uncontrolled high blood pressure and diabetes are two of the leading causes of chronic kidney disease,” said Monica Fox, the Director of Outreach for the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.
The campaign includes partnering with communication organizations and deploying the foundation’s mobile screening unit, a van equipped to provide a free kidney screening to residents.
“Yesterday we did screenings and two people learned that they were diabetic and they had no idea that they were diabetic,” Fox said.
Poor health can also prevent someone from becoming a living kidney donor. As of Wednesday, there were about 3,500 people on the kidney transplant waitlist in Illinois.
Muffy Clarkson, 61, is one of them.
“I've had 23 potential donors and, for one reason or another, they don't pass the physical. I've had some who said they'll donate and they changed their mind,” Clarkson said.
It was seven years ago that Clarkson’s doctor found diminished kidney function through a routine physical, but Clarkson waited two years to see a specialist.
“By the time I got to the nephrologist, I was down to maybe 40 or 30% kidney function,” Clarkson said.
Her kidney function has dropped even more. Clarkson said she is on the verge of needing dialysis, but she is fending it off by diving into exercise and healthy eating.
“These raggedy old kidneys. I'm fighting. I'm fighting it. I do not want dialysis,” Clarkson said.
While Clarkson waits for a kidney donor, she wants others to learn from her mistakes.
“Don't wait. Don't wait,” Clarkson said. “My kidney disease could be under control. I could be maybe 40% with the proper medication, but I was so scared to go.”