Michael and Lucille Parker. Photo by C.B. Bell.[/caption] By Cynthia Flash Burien resident Lucille Parker is one feisty woman. She speaks her mind, asks for what she wants, sets her expectations high and does her best to live life to the fullest. And she does it all while battling a host of health problems, including chronic kidney failure that has tethered her to a dialysis machine for 40 years â€“ making her one of the worldâ€™s longest continuous dialysis patients. Lucille learned she had kidney disease at age 19 while living in Illinois. â€œI was sick. My mom said, â€˜Girl, youâ€™re pregnant.â€™ I said, â€˜Woman, youâ€™re crazy.â€™â€ Lucilleâ€™s doctor determined one kidney was working at only 50 percent and the other at 75 percent. She was admitted to the hospital for 30 days as her kidneys continued to fail, and in April 1977 she started dialysis treatments. Three times a week she would be hooked up to a machine that cleaned the waste from her blood and removed extra fluid from her body, replacing the work normally done by healthy kidneys. At the time Lucille was hoping to be picked up by the Barbizon Agency and become a model. But she gave up that dream and followed her soon-to-be husband Michael Parker to Seattle, where they built a life together. She worked as an office manager while raising their son and daughter, supporting Mikeâ€™s work as a dry cleaner and the many businesses he started, including a limousine service. When sheâ€™s able, Parker dotes on her five granddaughters, ages 1 to 23. Parker inherited a genetic condition from her father that inflames the small blood vessels in the kidneys. That puts her in the minority of people with kidney failure, who more often develop kidney problems after a history of diabetes or uncontrolled high blood pressure. She received a kidney transplant that didnâ€™t take, requiring her to continue dialysis even with the new organ. At one time, she received dialysis at a Northwest Kidney Centers clinic but then she and Mike got training to do her treatments themselves at home. She spends 2.5 hours on dialysis, five days a week, to replace the 24/7 function of normal kidneys. Once a month she returns to Northwest Kidney Centers for a checkup to be sure all is well. Lucille has also received support from family and friends from Beacon Hill First Baptist Church, where she and Mike have been part of the choir. Mike still sings there. One must be tough and determined to do 40 years of dialysis. Over the years, Lucille has even died three times. She had a heart attack at a dialysis clinic and was revived by a nurse who administered CPR until the medics arrived. She pulled through two additional near-death experiences, battled intestinal infection, had a hip replacement and is facing additional surgery. â€œYou have to stay on your schedule and take care of yourself. You donâ€™t cut your treatments short and you canâ€™t skip,â€ she said recently at her home, surrounded by decadesâ€™ worth of framed family pictures. â€œYou canâ€™t drink. You canâ€™t smoke. You canâ€™t do drugs. You canâ€™t put anything in your body that doesnâ€™t belong. Itâ€™s about living, not partying.â€ Theyâ€™re a stylish pair â€“ Mike immaculately dressed and Lucille now donning intricately painted long nails. Faith plays a big role for them. â€œGod has been part of my life since I was a little girl,â€ she said. â€œMake God No. 1 in your life. Always stand up on your faith.â€ On March 6, Lucille will turn 61 years old. Her birthday is two days before World Kidney Day, a time to focus on health and learn about kidney disease, which affects more than 1 in 10 Americans and 1 in 4 African Americans. Stay on top of your kidney health Follow prescribed treatments to control diabetes and/or high blood pressure, the biggest causes of kidney disease:
- Lose extra weight with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
- Donâ€™t overuse over-the-counter pain medicines.
- Donâ€™t smoke.
- Eat more fresh food to avoid the damaging salt that preserves our processed food.
- Know your family health history.
- Ask your doctor to test you for kidney disease if you are at riskâ€”take a quiz to find out at https://www.nwkidney.org/living-with-kidney-disease/am-i-at-risk/overview/