Sam’s Story

In Kidney Support Stories by The Road Back to Life

I’ve been around the block with kidney failure. My story begins in the sixties when my father was stationed at Hahn Air force base, Germany. As a child, I experienced a lot of strep throat episodes requiring treatment. My doctor thought that this caused inflammation and injury to the nephrons on my kidneys.

When kidneys are injured, they usually won’t recover like other organs of the body. All through college and the first few years of my career I was healthy! Then during a routine physical exam, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. This was the first sign of future kidney illness. My Primary Care Physician (PCP) recommended that I start a low sodium diet to reduce my blood pressure which would extend the life of my kidneys. High blood pressure is a common illness amongst minorities possibly resulting in kidney failure. It took twenty years for my kidney function (or creatinine level) to reach less than 20% function requiring treatment.

The doctor did a biopsy to determine the cause of my kidney issues and said I had a form of end stage renal disease called glomerulonephritis. Basically, this means that the nephrons on my kidney had become inflamed and were ceasing to function! MY PCP recommended that I see a kidney specialist (nephrologist) at this time to help me manage my kidney disease. I met and started seeing Dr. Pamela Keech who guided my health care for the next twenty-five plus years. Because of the uniqueness of kidney failure your nephrologist becomes your primary care provider! In 1997 I begin dialysis three times a day for four hours at the Northwest Kidney Center (NKC) near my office while working as a full time professional for three years.

Then on Father’s Day in 2000, I received a call from the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) to come in for a cadaver transplant. This transplanted kidney lasted me for twelve good years before it was rejected by my body, and I had to start dialysis again. Since I was now 62 years old with other health issues as well, I decided to retire. On the advice of Dr. Keech and the benefits provided, I begin a new form of treatment called peritoneal dialysis. For some reason, the port used for this type of dialysis kept clogging, so I had to go back to using hemodialysis. But this time, I decided to do dialysis treatments closer to home and started going to a Puget Sound Kidney Center (PSKC). This also meant a change in Nephrologist because Dr. Keech was not associated with PSKC!

Being on Dialysis for the second time and twelve years later meant that I saw a lot of advances in medical technology had been made in the Hemodialysis process. I was surprised how much the treatments had improved and felt that it was now a better experience if you must be on dialysis! I am also back on the list for a second kidney transplant at UWMC and hopefully will get a new kidney soon. I was pleasantly surprised recently to hear that my dear Dr. Keech had retired from her medical practice and was now the chief medical director for PSKC where I now dialyze.