I only have one kidney. I also have Chronic Kidney Disease.

In 2012, I donated a kidney to my step-mother, who was suffering renal failure brought on by diabetes. I wrote about it in a previous post, wherein I tried to capture what I remember when I was coming out of a two-day coma. It was a life-altering event, for me and for her.

After my donation, I went back to work. I was a drill sergeant in the army at the time, and when I returned to duty my body could not keep up. The army started the process to medically retire me, and in 2014 I hung up my guns.

Shortly after the donation, however, my father fell ill and was hospitalized. After a week or so in the hospital, he was released and cared for my my step-mom, who was able to care for him because she was no longer bound to dialysis. I think that was the greatest benefit for me.

My father lived for another couple years because Marguerite was able to care for him. I keep thinking that had I not donated, my father may have passed away sooner than he did. I’m grateful for the extra time he was with us. I wrote about his passing, also in a previous post.

Today, March 12th, is World Kidney Day! The purpose of this day is raise awareness globally for kidney health. They have a website you should check out: World Kidney Day Homepage. They’ve been around since 2006, and each year they focus on a theme. The 2020 theme is: “Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere – from Prevention to Detection and Equitable Access to Care”.

They have some really great information on their website, like the “8 Golden Rules” for kidney care:

1. Keep an active lifestyle. You don’t have to be a gym-rat or a CrossFit junkie to be active. Walking, jogging, and biking are all great exercises to stay fit.

2. Watch what you eat. Reducing salt intake is important for kidney health. That was one fo the first things I cut out after donating. And it’s hard because salt is in so many foods we eat. There are many low-sodium cooking ingredients that don’t taste too bad!

3. Keep an eye on that blood sugar. On their site, they say “about half of people who have diabetes do not know they have diabetes.” That’s scary. I gave a kidney to someone who lost her kidneys due to diabetes. They advise checking kidney function regularly with blood or urine tests.

4. Watch your blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage your kidneys, so it’s important to keep an eye on it, especially for those middle-aged and older. A normal blood pressure reading for adults is 120/80. If yours isn’t somewhere close to that, they advise consulting with your doctor.

5. Drink water! When I was a soldier, that was one of the most common commands I received. As a drill sergeant, I always made sure my troops consumed water regularly since the demands of training are greater than a normal sedentary lifestyle. It is still true, though, even after I retired. On any normal day, you should have 8 cups of water, or about two quarts. If you’re living or working in more extreme climates, this amount should increase.

6. Do not smoke. This is something that plagued me for most of my life. Not only does tobacco contain a ton of chemicals I can’t pronounce, smoking it restricts your blood flow by constricting blood vessels. If blood flow to the kidneys is reduced, it may make it harder for them to operate normally. Kick this habit in the butt!

7. Avoid regular use of anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing pills. Since I have only one kidney, and I’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), I have been ordered by my doctor to avoid non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds, NSAIDS. That includes ibuprofen. Regular use of these medications can damage kidneys, and even just smaller doses can hurt the kidneys of someone suffering from CKD.

8. Get checked. If you have and high-risk conditions, get yourself checked by your doctor. These conditions include: Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, or a family history of kidney disease.

Keeping these guidelines in mind can go a long way in ensuring your kidneys are well cared for.

The choice to donate was not easy. Its occurrence has changed my life. I am ever grateful that I was able to do so, to save someone’s life, and taking care of my remaining kidney is of utmost importance to my health.

I encourage you, take care of what you have. If you’re unsure about something, do everything you can to root out problems before they get worse.

Happy World Kidney Day!!

(Image from holidayscalendar.com )