Imagine waking up from a diabetic coma in the hospital intensive care unit with blurry vision, unable to move. That’s what happened to Briana Knight, who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes two decades earlier.
After spending 11 days in the hospital, Knight’s doctors told her that her kidneys were no longer working; she needed to start kidney dialysis to stay alive.
“With dialysis,” Knight said, “I get to see another day. People say `you’re so positive’. I choose to be that way. I don’t see the point otherwise. It makes sense to me to be positive.”
Knight said negativity makes the treatments harder. But treatments that cleanse waste and water from Knight’s body to do the work of her failed kidneys are worth it. On her next birthday, Knight will celebrate 53 years.
Kidney disease can surprise people because it often has no obvious symptoms. The National Institute of Health estimates that as many as 9 in 10 people with chronic kidney disease in the United States do not know they have the disease. And for many people, no symptoms appear until their kidney disease is advanced.
Early detection is important. The disease, which affects one in 10 American adults, can be slowed or sometimes even stopped with diet, exercise, medications and lifestyle changes.
Diabetes and high blood pressure – the conditions responsible for Knight’s kidney disease – are the two leading causes of kidney disease. Effectively managing these conditions greatly contributes to the long-term health of the kidneys.
Other risk factors include a family history of kidney disease, and being African American, Asian American or Native American. People who are overweight and those over age 60 are also at risk. Know your risk–take the quiz at www.nwkidney.org/quiz.
Anyone who is at risk for kidney disease should ask their doctors to check their blood pressure and do appropriate lab tests to check their kidney health, said Dr. Suzanne Watnick, chief medical officer at Northwest Kidney Centers, the regional non-profit dialysis provider that is headquartered in Burien.
Knight receives her dialysis treatments three times a week at Northwest Kidney Centers’ dialysis clinic in Burien.
“She’s one special lady,” said Lisa Sloot, the Unit Coordinator at the Burien clinic. “She always helps out. I love her.”
The sentiment is mutual.
“I love this place,” Knight said. “The staff is like a second family. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
March is National Kidney Month, a time to learn how to keep your kidneys happy and healthy. Here are some tips:
- Follow prescribed treatments to control diabetes and/or high blood pressure.
- Eat a kidney-friendly diet (low or no salt). Look here for a kidney-friendly diet and recipes.
- Attend an Eating Well, Living Well class to learn how to change your diet. Visit class listings at https://www.nwkidney.org/living-with-kidney-disease/classes/.
- Stay active. Find ways to exercise that you enjoy and check with your doctor about exercising safely for you.
- Don’t overuse over-the-counter pain medicines or prescription medicines.
Learn more about kidney disease at NWkidney.org.