Twenty-six million Americans are living with kidney disease, and many of them don't even know it. Gordon Heuser, an attorney in Colorado Springs, is a perfect example of why it's important to be aware of kidney disease.
Heuser says, "For about 53 years, I thought I was in perfect health. I had been a runner since college. I ate well; I thought I was taking care of myself. I would get a good night’s sleep, I didn't eat a lot of sugar or fats, but it can happen to anybody".
The it... is kidney disease. In a way it was Gordon’s active lifestyle that opened the first door down the road to kidney failure.
“In my mid to late 30's, I started having aches and pains, and I wasn't doing the things people were telling me to [for those aches and pains] like stretching, instead I took Ibuprofen. I took it on a chronic basis for 15 or 20 years, as much as I could if not more, because it really did help with aches and pains helped me sleep at night.”
While the chronic use of Ibuprofen was easing his pain, Gordon was unaware that it was also slowly damaging his kidneys. That was never detected because of one reason.
Gordon says, “I wasn't going to the doctor on regular basis or getting my blood tested. Finally in 2012 I started feeling run-down and miserable, but I thought it was just stress, and I thought I needed a vacation or a break from running, but I wasn't getting better. Then in August of 2012 I was so miserable, miserable enough to that I got up off the couch and went to see a doctor, and that's pretty miserable for me. That doctor took my blood and the next day he called and said ‘you’re in kidney failure and you need to go to hospital, right now.’ I felt like I had been hit on the head with a 2x4. That was the start of my odyssey with kidney disease.”
The next step in Gordon's journey was dialysis, he says, "Being on dialysis is an awful existence. You have to go to a dialysis center 3 times a week, for at least 4 hours a day. You are hooked up to a machine that cleans your blood, and problem is it doesn't clean it like a kidney. You are chronically tired, you’re exhausted and it has other side effects."
After 11 months of dialysis came a successful kidney transplant, through what he calls a truly selfless act from his older brother who happened to be a near perfect match for Gordon.
“I had the transplant done on July 20, 2013, and when I woke up I felt much better, it was that quick. In 3-4 days I was up and walking around, within a week and half I was able to walk a mile, to a a mile and half and in 4-5 weeks I was back to my running.”
Gordon feels great these days and hopes that sharing his story will others avoid the same mistakes he made.
”I encourage people to take care of themselves go and get a physical. Get your blood tested regularly. [If you are at risk] make the lifestyle changes, you can slow down kidney disease or even stop it in its tracks without having to have a transplant, or having to go on dialysis, or even dying early."
There is one more message that Gordon wants everyone to consider.
"It's really important that everyone consider being a donor, not just kidney, but liver, heart, and lung. If everyone was willing to be a donor it would provide life to millions of people. That is what it's all about because there are a lot people out there suffering and we can alleviate that suffering if people are just willing to put on the back of their driver’s license, YES, I am an organ donor. It’s just that easy."
For more information on this Sunday's Kidney Walk at Memorial Park go to http://donate.kidney.org/site/TR/Walk/NKFServingtheMid-West?fr_id=8292&pg=entry