Patience is something I’ve never been particularly great with. In fact, it’s always been my weakest ability.
So when I got serious with my future husband in the summer of 2010, I was sure his kidney issues would be something that would pass quickly. I was wrong.
As background, my husband inherited focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) from his mother who had a kidney transplant about 15 years ago. The disease essentially scars the tissue that’s vital for the kidney to filter out waste in the body. While FSGS is rare, it predominantly affects African-American men more than any other group.
But if you ask any Black person, kidney diseases are a regular cause of sickness in our community. In fact, Blacks and African Americans suffer from kidney failure at a significantly higher rate than Caucasians —more than three times higher and we constitute more than 35 percent of all dialysis patients in the U.S., according to the National Kidney Foundation.
Visit any dialysis center in the country and I guarantee the majority of the patients are Black.
High blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are the leading cause for a break down in kidney function, which tie back to socioeconomic factors from systematic oppression. But to avoid a tangent, it’s something that needs to be addressed in our community.
My husband started peritoneal dialysis in 2012 as a 30-year-old and five years later he’s still on the list. In more recent years his end-stage renal condition has caused his body to break down with regular hospital visits from infections and a ventral hernia where his catheter is placed.
Medical jargon aside, your first thought may be: Why don’t you donate one of your kidneys? And this is where the cosmic joke comes in.
I would, if we didn’t find out two years ago that I was born with only one kidney — a rare occurrence. So me, the one with huge patience issues, can do nothing to help my husband feel better… other than to wait.
I truly believe some things in life happen for a reason. The lesson learned once we’re out of the storm makes us stronger. And in recent months, him and I have received an outpouring of love and support —with a few friends even getting tested to donate a kidney.
As we celebrate National Diabetes Month, I want to be a testament to other people dealing with similar situations. You’re not alone. And while I don’t personally know the anguish of needing a kidney transplant, I can speak for those who love and support a person in need 24/7.
Practical steps to help are learning everything you can about the sickness that’s affecting their kidney, adjust your diets to adhere to medical advice, pray, self-care whenever possible and love them unconditionally and inconveniently.
I wish this nightmare would end at least once a day, but through the darkness is a light and we all have to lead each other to it.
For those interested in getting tested to potentially donate a kidney, go here.