March is Kidney Health Month – a time to shine a spotlight on kidney health as a vital health issue and raise funds to support Canadians affected by kidney disease. The Kidney Foundation is hoping to do just that with its #MakeYourMark challenge.
“Four million Canadians – that’s one in 10 – live with kidney disease. Despite being vital organs, kidneys are all too often overlooked or ignored as part of our overall health,” said Dr. Norman Muirhead, President of The Kidney Foundation’s Ontario Branch. “That is, until you or someone you love is affected.”
People living with kidney disease fight a lifelong battle, the foundation said in a media release. This year, the Kidney Foundation plans to highlight the stories of volunteer challengers from across the province, all of whom are impacted in some way by kidney disease.
One local ambassador, Marie-Josée Coyle, was diagnosed with kidney disease in 1994, and is now a living donor recipient, thanks to her creative efforts and support from the Kidney Foundation.
In 2016, Coyle was told she was in Stage 5, her kidneys were failing fast, and she had to start dialysis. “During dialysis, I asked to register to be on ‘the list’ and proceeded to do all the tests. I was a good candidate [for a donor kidney], but I was also O+ blood type (which means I can only receive from an O+ donor) and was told I could be waiting many years,” she told Kingstonist in an interview.
She decided to market herself and her search for a kidney donor, and put a sign in the rear window of her vehicle “advertising” that she was looking for a kidney.
“I also took a picture and posted it on Facebook for March, the kidney month, and asked my friend to share. On March 4th, I received a call. Someone I didn’t know was offering me his kidney,” she shared. “After all the tests, he was a perfect match and on September 26, 2018, I became a living donor kidney recipient. This altruistic man ended up being the husband of a woman working in the same building as me. The whole process took place here in Kingston at the transplant clinic at KHSC.”
The Kidney Foundation supports people throughout their life-long journey with the disease, Coyle included. “The Kidney Foundation has helped me and my family through programs and services such as educational resources, cooking classes, exercises, (online) classes, and a chance to help my peers,” she explained. “I know that, as a leading source of research funding, it has contributed to me being able to receive a living donor transplant in Kingston.”
Throughout the month of March, the Kidney Foundation wants to hear more stories and lived experiences like Coyle’s, and hopes the #MakeYourMark challenge will do just that. They invite all Ontarians to join the kidney community online by sharing their connection to kidney disease using the hashtags #kidneyhealthmonth and #makeyourmark on social media.
All funds raised will provide vital programs and services for Canadians affected by kidney disease and drive research innovation that brings us closer to a cure, according to the Foundation. The public is encouraged to make their gifts online at www.kidneyontario.ca or by calling 1-800-387-4474.
“Kidney Health Month is a perfect time to come together to raise funds and awareness in support of the four million Canadians affected by kidney disease,” Coyle added. “The #MakeyourMark challenge gives me the opportunity to say thank you for the gift of life. There is no cure for chronic kidney disease. Dialysis and transplant are treatments, and I want to help the Foundation to raise funds so maybe one day, there will be a cure.”
Canadians can bridge the knowledge gap and learn how important the mighty kidney is to their overall health by using The Kidney Foundation’s interactive risk awareness tool. Simply answer a few questions about lifestyle, health, and related factors to learn about the risk factors for kidney disease and tips to protect and preserve kidney health.
For more information on kidney disease and the #MakeYourMark challenge, visit www.kidney.ca